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Sherwin-Williams HQ builders to get an HQ, too

NEOtrans

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View and location of the 18,000-square-foot Gilman Building next to the 1-million-square-foot Sherwin-Williams global headquarters.Pickard Chilton

Gilman Building gets new use for next 2 years

The Gilman will apparently endure for a couple more years as the construction offices for the headquarters project after a construction management firm acquires it in the coming days.

With an anticipated sale of the Gilman Building closing this week, Sherwin-Williams’ (SHW) global headquarters development team expects to gain its own HQ of sorts in the form of a construction office over the next two years. But the long-term future of this five-story, modernist-clad Victorian-era building at 1350 W. 3rd St. in downtown Cleveland is uncertain.

Two sources close to the SHW HQ project informed NEOtrans of the impending sale of the Gilman Building and that the transaction would close on Thanksgiving week. Representatives of the buyer, Akron-based Welty Building Co., and the seller, Cleveland-based Realife Real Estate group, did not deny the imminent transaction; but they would not comment on it either.

Welty, in a joint venture with the Gilbane Building Co., is SHW’s global HQ’s construction manager. A groundbreaking ceremony for the $300-plus-million-dollar project was due to be held Nov. 16 but was pushed back about two months due to unspecified scheduling conflicts, according to Julie Young, SHW’s vice president of global corporate communications.

At 2 p.m. Nov. 30, the Cleveland City Planning Commission will hold a Special Joint Committee and Commission meeting to review final plans for SHW’s HQ project. This is the third in a series of three meetings with the Landmarks Commission, Cleveland City Planning Commission, Downtown Flats Design Review Committee and Historic Downtown Cleveland Design Review Committee to review the project.

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The Gilman Building stands at 1350 W. 3rd St. in downtown Cleveland’s Warehouse District.KJP

The Gilman Building stands at 1350 W. 3rd St. in downtown Cleveland’s Warehouse District. Although designed with Victorian flair by noted architect John Edelman and built in 1882, the structure was modernized in the late 1960s and renovated again by Stark Enterprises in 2007.

Terms of the Gilman Building’s pending sale are not yet known. However, Welty and its law firm Brouse McDowell, LPA created a new company in September called 1350 W III, LLC to acquire and hold the 0.085-acre property, the sources said. They also said the 18,000-square-foot Gilman would serve as the construction management offices and document repository for SHW HQ project whose first phase is expected to continue for about two years.

The 1882-built Gilman Building was modernized in the late-1960s and again in the 2000s. It is also the only building still standing on the so-called Superblock bounded by Superior and St. Clair avenues plus West 3rd and West 6th streets. It is also the only Superblock property SHW has been unable to acquire for its proposed HQ complex and supportive developments.

The sources said SHW has tried in vain to acquire the Gilman so it could knock the structure down to create development-ready sites around the perimeter of its downtown HQ campus along St. Clair and West 6th. Sources said there have been debates about where and how to provide temporary construction offices in trailers and offer enough parking for construction workers. Using the Gilman addresses many of those issues, the sources said.

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Comparing the Sherwin-Williams HQ site plans from last summer (at left) to now reveals significant change.Pickard Chilton

The most significant change on the Sherwin-Williams HQ site plans — a reduction in the footprint size and increase in the height of the 920-space parking garage. Conceptual development is shown in the left image but omitted from the newer image to show only what SHW intends to build. The new parking garage design avails more space for perimeter development along St. Clair Avenue. The Gilman Building is visible in both images at St. Clair and West 3rd Street with parking and trash receptacle space provided for it.

So does a design change to the HQ project’s parking facility. The SHW HQ’s development team redesigned a proposed four-level, 920-space parking garage making it one level taller and shrinking its footprint while still offering the same number of parking spaces.

Not only did the garage’s redesign satisfy the City Planning Commission‘s request for a taller parking garage, but it also allows for more surface parking prior to the garage’s availability. The commission sought a skinnier garage to open up more of the HQ site’s perimeter for spin-off development. It was not done in response to any prospective developers’ feedback as none have yet been engaged, the sources added.

Although a sale amount wasn’t communicated, recent transactions involving the Gilman may provide some insight. In 2007, Stark Enterprises acquired the property (then called the Titanic Building) for $1.3 million to be its new HQ. In late 2018, affiliates of Stark Enterprises and Realife entered into a mortgage in which Stark lent $1.65 million to Realife and awarded it a deed to the Gilman, county records show.

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Another notable change from SHW’s HQ design package it submitted to the city of Cleveland last summer (at left) versus the final versionPickard Chilton

Another notable change from SHW’s HQ design package it submitted to the city of Cleveland last summer (at left) versus the final version is how perceives the scale of perimeter development, seen here from the northwest corner of St. Clair Avenue and West 6th Street in the Warehouse District. The parking garage was also redesigned, SHW’s HQ tower was added and the Johnnie Walker billboard on the side of the Gilman Building was removed in the newer version.

Realife had tried to sell the Gilman to SHW and reportedly wanted to be paid handsomely for it, the sources said. SHW wanted the building but not for Realife’s asking price. So the Fortune 500 company apparently tried to play hardball with the small real estate firm.

In March, the corporate giant sent a cease and desist letter to Realife, telling it to stop using a tiny, neighboring sliver of SHW’s property for a trash receptacle and a parking space. SHW soon placed concrete barriers and fencing to prevent Realife from using that small piece of land which is separated by a guardrail from the rest of SHW’s property. Realife filed a complaint in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, claiming it has a prescriptive easement to use the land through adverse possession — basically squatter’s rights.

To achieve squatter’s rights under Ohio law, a property would need to be considered abandoned by the deed holder for an extended period of time and that the current user has been using it productively for at least 21 years. Realife says it and prior owners of 1350 W. 3rd have been using the sliver of land for longer than 21 years. The case will almost certainly be dropped after Reallife transfers the Gilman’s deed to Welty’s affiliate.

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