CLEVELAND: Top civic leaders among the Cleveland State University alumni ranks helped turn the first shovels of dirt Wednesday for a $50 million housing-retail complex that it calls the city's largest residential development in more than 30 years.
U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge of Cleveland, Mayor Frank Jackson and Cleveland City Council President Martin Sweeney, all alumni, participated in the groundbreaking under a tent and threatening skies.
The groundbreaking ceremony marked another step in Cleveland State's drive to develop student housing and shed a commuter-school image.
''A campus of over 17,000 students, they really should have 3,000 or 4,000 beds on or near campus,'' said Guy Totino, president of Polaris Real Estate Equities.
The suburban Highland Heights company will build the public-private project on land leased from the university.
The campus currently has housing for about 1,200.
''We think this project has been a long time in coming,'' Totino said.
The project will include nine buildings on nearly seven acres just north of the campus and currently holding parking lots and aging industrial buildings at the edge of downtown Cleveland.
The project will include shops, restaurants, a theater and 300 apartments meant to attract young professionals, professors, alumni and students.
The project is scheduled for completion in phases in 2012 and 2013.
Totino said the university had set the stage for expanded campus housing with the construction of new student and recreation centers intended to keep students on campus longer and make it more attractive to dormitory residents.
''With those pieces in place, adding housing is the logical next step. It really almost guarantees its success,'' Totino said.
University President Ronald Berkman said expanded student housing was part of a goal of connecting the campus to the nearby PlayhouseSquare theater district, the new home of the university's dance and theater departments.