Focal point of Cleveland's Flats East Bank project marks topping off

CLEVELAND - Cleveland's newest high-rise marked a major milestone with the topping off of the 23-story office building that is the focal point of the Flats East Bank development project.

Developer Scott Wolstein joined city and county leaders in raising the ceremonial last beam on Wednesday.

For Wolstein, the moment marks a major breathing point in the ups and downs of this half billion dollar project that started not far from this site six years ago, when the project was first announced.

"Everything was going full tilt and everything looked nothing but rosy," said Wolstein, of next two years that would follow. "Then the financial crisis hit in 2008 and all of the lenders who had committed to the project backed out."

Two years into a project Wolstein had the unenviable task of trying to find new lenders at a time when no banks were lending.

"We had to start from scratch. We had to put together a capital stack from the ground up," Wolstein recalled, ending up with a list of capital providers that numbered around three dozen. A little here, a little there, just enough to make the dream of bringing the Flats back to life a reality.

"This is probably the most complicated real estate financing in the history of this country and the first major project in any major city that came out of the ground on the heals of the financial crisis.

"It's a real tribute to everybody in the community because there really is nobody that didn't play a role in making this happen."

The tower that will open next year will be home to accounting giants Ernst & Young and the law offices of Tucker Ellis. Other parts of the project include a 150-room boutique hotel and five restaurants, eventually.

Phase II, down the road, will include a 140-unit residential complex, a boardwalk and a number of entertainment and retail options that will make the east bank a place to work, live and play.

"When this project is completed this waterfront development will be as exciting, if not more so than any in the United States," said Wolstein, who was joined by his mother and his four children. "It's somewhat symbolic because we want Cleveland to be a place where young people want to live.

"I can assure that this project will be a place where young professionals can live work, play and it will be competitive with any mixed use urban project in the United States, maybe in the world," he said.

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