Displaying leadership for our veterans

Displaying leadership for our veterans

Five decades before Sweeney became the president of the foundation that would raise millions of dollars to construct two Fisher Houses in Cleveland, he fought in a controversial war as a sergeant within the 11th Brigade, Americal Division. As a 22-year-old raised in a military family, Sweeney rode helicopters over the jungles of Vietcong as he dodged machine gun fire. He lost friends, slept on sandbags, endured artillery fire five days a week. Though Sweeney speaks rarely in detail of his wartime years — which earned him a Bronze Star — he’s unafraid to capture its severity in brief.

“Every war sucks,” he said. “Plain and simple. It’s cruel. It’s arbitrary. Only the truly lucky ones come out of combat. It’s a special experience, I can tell you that.”

After a two-decade career as a deep-voiced news anchor for Baltimore’s WMAR and, later, Cleveland’s WKYC Channel 3, Sweeney retired in 1992 to care for his boys, Tuck and Connor.

Come 2011, Sweeney was asked by Susan Fuehrer, the director of the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA, to spearhead a special team to raise funds for the first Fisher House suites in the area. Sweeney was taken aback: He’d never heard of the concept.

“I had no idea what the hell she was talking about,” he said. “Why would I? They weren’t around when I was in uniform.”

Although the first Fisher House opened up 25 years ago at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., the push for improved psychiatric care for returning vets has long been a conundrum in the United States. “Shell shocked” soldiers who survived mortar shrapnel in World War I were occasionally sent back into combat if their disorder was deemed “nervous” — an emotional collapse — and not a physical wound. By the time President Richard Nixon had resigned, psychiatrists were just starting to analyze Vietnam vets for signs of physically manifested trauma, though it would take another decade for the American Psychiatric Association to add “post-traumatic stress disorder” to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” in 1980.

Soldiers were finally being understood. Yet, still, there was an entity widely left out of DSM mental diagnoses: their families.

In 1990, while the VA was starting to treat polytrauma via the neurologically focused Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing treatment, Zachary Fisher, an 80-year-old owner of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, shifted gears to found an organization of military “comfort homes,” all under the belief that “a family’s love is the best medicine.” (Vets families were also, Fisher noticed, sleeping on VA couches.)

Seventy-two Fisher Houses would pop up globally, though not in Cleveland. Most today are near military bases and VA medical centers, and operate as state-of-the-art, 16-suite hotels fashioned with modern-designed interiors, full kitchens, play rooms and lasagna dinners.

“It’s a holistic approach to reintegration,” said Dr. Joseph Baskin, a psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic who worked for the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA for 12 years. “But it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all. I’m sure there are some people who might be better off apart, who don’t want to impose on their families.”


Published at Sat, 02 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000

Chicago Top 5 – Things To Do

Chicago Top 5 – Things To Do

The best recommendation of things to do in Chicago. Visiting this city is a must and here are some of my things you must do while here.

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Things NOT To Do in Chicago

Things NOT To Do in Chicago

Get more Tips here! www.destinationtips.com
Do not put ketchup on your hot dog.
A true Chicago-style hot dog is a Vienna beef hot dog in a poppyseed bun, topped with onions, mustard, sweet pickle relish, tomato slices, a dill pickle spear and a dash of celery salt.
Get Your Words Right!
Calling Chicago Chi-town really bothers some people
Is Chi-raq okay?

It’s “Dee-vón” instead of “dev-in” and “Paul-eye-nah” not “Paul-eena.” There is a long list that I could go on, but I am going to keep it short and sweet.
Calling it “the train” instead of the “el.”

Don’t fly in or out of O’Hare
O’Hare Airport has one of the worst on-time records in the country.
especially when there’s bad weather.
Use Midway , chicago’s other Airport instead which sees fewer delays and shorter security lines

Do not buy Cubs tickets in advance.
Unless the Cubs return to their playoff form of 2003, there is no reason to try to get tickets to see the Cubs at Wrigley Field in advance. Scalpers are always outside of the ballpark in full force and if you wait until the game has started, you can probably even grab a ticket at a discount.

Don’t visit when it’s cold
There’s no getting around it: Chicago winters are miserable. If you want to be able to experience all the city has to offer, visit between May and September, when the city comes alive with outdoor food and music festivals just about every weekend. This is also the best time of year to enjoy beautiful beaches on Lake Michigan, biking on the lakefront trail, strolls through Millennium and Grant Park, and architectural boat rides on the Chicago River. If you visit in winter, you can still take advantage of Chicago’s great restaurants, bars, shopping, and cultural venues, but you’ll almost freeze to death in the process.

That’s pretty impressive right? (Skybox)
No! It’s too expensive!
DON’T: Go to the Willis Tower
You’ll wait in a long line and pay $19 to go to the top of what is now the country’s second-tallest building. Of course you can pay 40$ for a fast pass to skip the queue.
DON’T: Take the family to Navy Pier
Navy Pier is like the Times Square of Chicago: It’s iconic, yes, but it’s busy and touristy, and there isn’t all that much to actually do there.

And finally
Don’t miss an architecture boat tour.
the Chicago Architecture River Cruise is the quintessential Chicago visitor experience. You’ll get a primer on Chicago’s history, and also enjoy a prime vantage point from which to enjoy the city’s world famous architecture.

Source Lunch with … Fred Cummings

Source Lunch with … Fred Cummings

Fred Cummings founded Elizabeth Park Capital Management in Pepper Pike in 2008. Over the years of running a supremely successful, bank-focused hedge fund — which happens to feature some of the region’s most prominent businesspeople as investors — he has carved out a significant niche in the investment world and banking industry, comfortably establishing himself as an authority the world of M&A for financial institutions.

With 2017 shaping up to be another highly active year for bank deals, Crain’s decided to sit down with Cummings to talk about the M&A environment overall, what trends are driving buyers and sellers in today’s market, and what catalysts in the banking sector could influence deal flow from here.


So 2016 was a big year for bank M&A. What’s activity looking like in 2017 so far?

While M&A is not stronger than ever, it’s stronger than it’s been in the last six years. Things are moving in the right direction in terms of the number of deals getting done. And even the price-to-tangible book multiples are all trending higher. I think the all-time high level of M&A activity occurred in the early 1990s, where you had a record number of deals. One reason we won’t see that happen again is simply because there is a fewer number of banks out there. So one has to look at the percentage of banks that have sold each year relative to the number of banks at the beginning of the year. That number has been hovering around 4%. Around the early ’90s, it reached 4.5%. So that’s a signal that things are very robust and very healthy right now.

What’s comparable in terms of M&A volume today is relative to some 25 years ago, then. Why did it take so long to get back to this level of activity?

There are a couple factors. For one, typically buyers don’t want to buy until they’re confident credit quality is sound, and we’re clearly at that point. Right now, credit quality indicators are stronger than they were (before the) financial crisis in 2007. Two, you had bank stock prices go up. That’s allowed the buyer to have strong currency with which to pursue acquisitions. Three, the regulatory environment has loosened up to some extent. Not to the extent we need it to, but it’s improved. And lastly, the economy is improving. All those factors taken together have contributed to an ideal environment for M&A activity to occur.

So as we talk about it being a strong year for M&A, how’s that treating your business?

We launched an event-driven fund in February 2016 with the focus of identifying banks who would be likely sellers over a three-year time frame in anticipation of M&A remaining strong. That fund did well last year, in part due to the broad-based rally that bank stocks enjoyed. But in terms of number of deals in that fund, we had five banks sold in that fund last year. This year, we’ve had seven so far. So we’re very pleased with that progress.

And I imagine you expect more before the end of the year?

We fully expect, based on our conversations with banks across the country, that there is going to be more M&A. Banks are looking to increase their market share in specific markets all over the country and looking to achieve economies of scale, cut costs, and they’re attempting to leverage their capital. And that’s the best thing. The banking industry is blessed with a lot of capital right now. And they want to put that to work, and one way to do that is through strategic M&A.

Now let’s say the administration actually makes progress on its agenda and achieves things like bank regulatory relief or tax reform. How could that impact the M&A landscape?

I think the biggest impact would be regulatory changes, particularly loosening regulations on larger banks. At that point, you’d likely have more big banks like KeyBank and Fifth Third Bank entering the M&A markets. We saw Huntington Bank do a deal over the last year and Key. But I think the biggest change would be with any type of regulatory relief, you’ll see more big banks, super-regional banks, actually pursue deals. That would put more buyers in the marketplace.

And those large banks would target other large banks, too, I imagine.

Yes, they’d buy larger banks. The banks with assets of $20 billion to $50 billion would be the sellers. Right now, most of those banks want to be buyers. If we get regulatory relief, some of those big, super-regionals might enter the M&A arena.

In terms of relief, how the definition of SIFI (systematically important financial institutions) banks could change, would be a major factor in this, right?

It’s why we think the largest banks would be the biggest beneficiaries of any type of regulatory relief. What you’re looking for in tangible regulatory relief is definitely that SIFI definition, which is defined as a bank with assets greater than $50 billion. That threshold might be lifted. And if that happens, we anticipate some of those banks becoming buyers.

Any thoughts on the general state of M&A in our regional market here or across the state?

We know there are a lot of banks around and outside the state who are interested in becoming bigger here in Northeast Ohio — names like First Commonwealth Bank, S&T Bank, Park National Bank in Newark, Peoples Bank in Marietta. There are a number of banks who want a stronger presence in Northeast Ohio or want to enter the market based on the number of business that operate here. So I would expect there to be some M&A still. But you got to have a willing seller, and we don’t know how many are really willing to sell.


A top item on your bucket list?

Visiting the Ferrari factory in Maranello, Italy

Any hobbies?

Traveling and drinking red wine

Any wines you prefer?

“Cabernet Sauvignon. Joseph Phelps is one of my favorites.”

What’s something your friends may not know about you?

“I’m a big fan of Broadway shows.”

If not running your own investment business, what might you be doing?

“Probably teaching elementary school math. I love young people and working with kids.”

Lunch Spot

Flour Restaurant

34205 Chagrin Blvd., Moreland Hills

The meal

Sausage sandwich with peppers and onions, with chips and iced tea. And the catch of the day: lemon vinaigrette salmon served on a bed of chick peas, cucumbers and tomatoes, with water.

The vibe

The restaurant has an industrial-modern feel. Bright, spacious and colorful. Lots of authentic Italian dishes and reworked classics. Quick service for a busy lunch.

The bill

$37.26, plus tip


Published at Sun, 27 Aug 2017 04:01:00 +0000

Stalled in the Suburbs | Chicago Business Today

Stalled in the Suburbs | Chicago Business Today

Hundreds of subdivisions under development in suburban Chicago came to a screeching halt when the housing market imploded. What is left are unfinished and devalued communities struggling to make a comeback. Distributed by Tubemogul.

Off the Clock: Things to do in and around Akron

Off the Clock: Things to do in and around Akron


Artist Talk: Bruce Checefsky

6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24; Akron Art Museum, 1 S. Main St., Akron.

Bruce Checefsky — an artist whose work is spotlighted in the museum’s “Serial Intent” exhibition, which features series of works in pop art prints, photographs and more — will talk about the process behind his “Garden” series of pieces and give a demonstration in the Bud and Susie Rogers Garden.

This event is free.

Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival

Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 24-26; various venues in downtown Akron.

This is the second year for the celebration of jazz and blues that will take place all over downtown Akron at venues including Blu Jazz+, Lock 3 Park, Nightlight Cinema, Musica, the Akron Art Museum and more. The fest kicks off with a Jam Fest on Thursday night at Blu Jazz+ and continues with a slew of performances, including a full day of festival fun (kids activities, vendors, etc.) on Saturday. Artists include Joey DeFranceso, Victor Provost and James Johnson III. Check out the fest’s website for details, times and a full schedule.

Events are free.

Akron Pokemon Go

10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, through 6 p.m. Sunday, 27; downtown Akron.

Spend some time this weekend chasing Pokemons around downtown Akron. OK, they are not real critters, but virtual ones as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation teams up with Pokemon Go publisher Niantic Inc. for the weekend event. The goal is to get residents, University of Akron students and visitors to connect with the downtown area. The event, which coincides with UA freshman orientation, is incorporating some-real world things, too: activities, musicians, free charging stations and more.

This event is free.

Rock the Lock

7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25; Lock 3 Park, 200 S. Main St., Akron.

This week’s tribute act channels David Bowie as “David Brighton’s Space Oddity: The Ultimate David Bowie Experience” gets top billing. Brighton has been doing musical impersonations since 2001 and even performed once with Bowie, who died in 2016. Mo’ Mojo opens.

This event is free.

‘Dave Made a Maze’

Various times through Thursday, Aug. 31; Nightlight Cinema, 30 N. High St., Akron.

This unique indie film by director and Cleveland native Bill Watterson is receiving some rave reviews. Dave, an artist who can’t seem to finish any project he starts in his career, manages to build — and finish — a cardboard-box maze in his living room. But that’s where the trouble starts as he and his friends get trapped inside the maze’s supernatural world. How does one recent review in The Arizona Republic describe the film? ” ‘Weird’ is one word for it, and it certainly applies. But so does ‘creative,’ ‘inventive,’ ‘compelling’ and, finally, ‘good.’ ”

Tickets range from $7 to $9.

Akron Pride Festival

Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26; Hardesty Park, 1615 W. market St., Akron.

Akron Pride’s mission is to “unify and affirm the LGBTQ community and allies in celebrating our diversity and recognizing our likeness. We will promote acceptance of all individuals by defending human equity.” The inaugural event kicks off with a Equality March, which will step off at 11 a.m. in Highland Square and process to Hardesty Park. There, festivities will include live music by Martha Wash, food and art vendors, street performers, a kids zone and carnival games.

This event is free.

Wild for Wine

6-9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26; Akron Zoo, 500 Edgewood Way, Akron.

Wine lovers, it’s your turn to check out the animals. The Akron Zoo is hosting its first wine-tasting event, with six local wineries — Barrel Run Crossing Winery and Vineyards, Filia Cellars, Maize Valley Winery, NautiVine Winery, Troutman Vineyards and Wolf Creek Winery — offering their products. Square Scullery will prepare appetizers to pair with the wine offerings. The event also will feature live painting demonstrations.

Tickets range from $45 to $50 and are available online. Designated driver tickets range from $25 to $30.

Fall Hiking Spree Kickoff

Noon-3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27; Liberty Park Nature Center, 3973 E. Aurora Road, Twinsburg.

Get a head start on the 54th annual Fall Hiking Spree at this kickoff celebration. A naturalist and mascots will be on hand, and hiking forms will be available, as well as Fall Hiking Spree T-shirts for purchase. The spree requires participants to hike at least eight designated trails by Nov. 30 . At the end of all that walking are some cool rewards in the form of walking staffs (first-year hikers) and shields.

This event is free.

John Mayer

7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30; Blossom Music Center, 1145 W. Steels Corners Road, Cuyahoga Falls.

Grammy winner John Mayer is coming back to down, this time singing his own stuff instead of fronting the Dead & Company, as he did earlier this summer. Known for hits “Your Body is a Wonderland” and “Daughters,” among other, Mayer is touring behind his latest album, “The Search for Everything,” released in April.

Tickets range from $36 to $125 and are available online.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30; Goodyear Theater, 1201 E. Market St., Akron.

Jason Isbell, formerly of the Drive-By Truckers, brings his unique, pure sound — which stretches across genres, from folk and country to rock — to the fantastically intimate Goodyear Theater. The singer-songwriter and his band are touring behind his latest album, “The Nashville Sound.” A recent review in the New York Daily News said, “Isbell (and more specifically, Isbell’s voice) anchored a set that was low on spectacle, but filled with moments that made you shake your head in disbelief.”

Tickets range from $30 to $85 and are available online.


Published at Thu, 24 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000

Getting Into Chicago Booth School of Business

Getting Into Chicago Booth School of Business

In this episode of MBA PodTV, host Dilini Fernando takes you to her home turf: The University of Chicago Booth School of Business! Dilini is a 2nd year student and has insights into the program you won’t want to miss. You’ll also get expert admissions advice from Graham Richmond, CEO and co-founder of Clear Admit. Find out about Chicago’s flexible curriculum and get tips on tackling essay #3. Meet the Deputy Dean, some of Dilini’s classmates, and check out Chicago’s campus.

– Graham Richmond, CEO & co-founder of Clear Admit
– Stacey Kole, Deputy Dean for the Full-Time MBA Program, Chicago Booth
– Todd Garner, Chicago Booth MBA Class of 2011
– Lauren Johnston, Chicago Booth MBA Class of 2011
– Camilo Varela, Chicago Booth MBA Class of 2010

MBA Podcaster is your online source for information, insight, and advice on the MBA admissions process. We deliver relevant information and advice through biweekly audio and video segments for those planning to apply for a Master in Business Administration. Topics include strategies for writing MBA essays, preparing for the MBA interview, GMAT prep, MBA careers, business school rankings, MBA courses, the online MBA, Executive MBA programs, MBA scholarships, post-MBA job opportunities and current market trends.

Frank Sinito has sky-high hopes for real estate portfolio

Frank Sinito has sky-high hopes for real estate portfolio

Frank Sinito recently bought the 57-story Key Tower and the attached 400-room Marriott Cleveland Downtown in a $267 million deal. It’s a long reach for a Cleveland native who started out with a 14-suite apartment complex and a bar in the suburbs.

But at 54 with a tireless devotion to work, he’s fine-tuning things at the Key Center complex and has his eye on another big downtown building and renovation project.

On Sept. 1, Sinito will move the last of about 90 employees of his Millennia Cos. to Key Tower and is eagerly undertaking enhancements to Ohio’s tallest skyscraper, as well as the hotel.

Asked what’s next for him and Millennia in the wake of an epic transaction, Sinito said he’s hoping to launch the multimillion-dollar conversion of the massive former Huntington Building — now called Union Trust, in honor of its original name — on the northeast corner of Euclid Avenue and East Ninth Street.

“I have a bid in,” Sinito said. “I hope I get it. It will be a real roll-up-your sleeves opportunity.”

If a Sinito affiliate lands the 1-million-square-foot property or a stake in the project, it would be a big change and the biggest development for the massive Huntington Building since late 2015, when Hudson Holdings of Delray Beach, Fla., won an allocation for as much as $25 million in Ohio State Historic Preservation Tax Credits. Hudson Holdings has planned a $300 million adaptive reuse as apartments, hotel and contemporary office space, though construction is not yet underway.

Sinito said he would undertake adding 400 apartments to part of the landmark building if he gets involved in the project. Other parts of the building? He’ll figure those out later.

Although he would not say how much he offered to pay for Union Trust, Sinito’s disclosure of his interest in it also confirms that Hudson has been shopping the project or seeking additional investors.

For months, Andrew “Avi” Greenbaum, has denied such efforts. He wrote in a text message to Crain’s last week that Sinito “submitted an offer to which we haven’t responded at this time.”

How Sinito fares, coming weeks will tell. Making a play for another giant deal in his hometown so soon after snagging the city’s tallest skyscraper says a lot about Sinito. He enjoys what he does. He is aggressive. That’s also how the native Clevelander went from humble beginnings to launching the highly regarded Lockkeepers restaurant to growing an apartment-based real estate empire with 24,000 suites in 26 states. Now the company is so large that it hosts an annual conference in downtown Cleveland devoted to training and motivation for 500 managers.

Doing it the hard way

Motivation is important in the segment that provides most of Sinito’s cash flow, as 80% is in affordable and senior citizen housing. The remaining 20% is in more traditionally profitable market-rate projects.

Running affordable housing is not an undertaking for the passive or thin-skinned. Some of the buildings he buys have been covered for squalid conditions or crime problems by local news or TV stations in places including Jacksonville, Fla., and Birmingham, Ala. Millennia’s growth has been low-profile in Northeast Ohio, and Sinito likes it that way, saying he does not like talking to news media or about himself. Most of the coverage of Lockkeepers, for instance, is done by quoting his wife, Malisse, who runs it.

For his part, Sinito said his wife’s operation of the restaurant puts her in the limelight while allowing him to put his energies into the apartment business. As a result, many outside real estate circles were surprised when Millennia last year surfaced as Key Center’s buyer. Some even considered him a restaurateur. Moreover, Millennia pursues a segment of the multifamily business that other apartment owners wouldn’t consider.

A telling commentary on sizing up a new acquisition in Birmingham was shared by Sinito to staffers who attended Millennia’s recent annual meeting at the headquarters of Global Cleveland.

“When I first stopped at Bankhead Towers, the hookers were there to ask if they could help me,” Sinito said. “When I went the last time, residents were there to go to a picnic.” He then told staffers that they are on the front lines and need to work to keep affordable housing properties “places where you, your family or grandmother would live.” A zero-tolerance policy on drugs and improving security are essential, he said.

“I know how hard your jobs are. I’ve done your jobs. You are in the trenches every day,” Sinito said at the conference.

Many elements in the multifamily business eschew investments in the affordable housing segment, even with their stable cash flow from federal housing assistance, and even fewer do what Millennia has done: bought market-rate properties as well as affordable and senior citizen properties.

Ralph McGreevy, executive vice president of the Northeast Ohio Apartment Association, said Sinito chose a tough road.

“It’s a difficult path for many reasons,” McGreevy said. “Another is that it’s an eye-on-the-ball business because you are dealing with public money. The i’s have to be dotted and the t’s have to be crossed. Market-rate (housing) is not as risky. If you’re smart, have a good property and a good location, it’s hard to screw it up.”

Sinito balanced those challenges while building a portfolio of market-rate housing, which McGreevy said takes someone who is “very skilled. What he’s doing has impressed most members of our association.”

For Sinito’s part, he traces his interest to writing a paper on public housing while he was earning a degree in economics at Cleveland State University, at the time thinking he might pursue a law career. The takeaways from that research would later shape his direction with respect to affordable housing.

“This is an industry that is recession-proof,” Sinito said. “Unfortunately, demand for it will always exceed supply.”

Leaving an impression

John Burke, a now-retired Cleveland State professor, does not remember the paper Sinito said he penned for him, but remembers Sinito, even though he has not seen him for 30 years and believes he taught thousands of students.

“He was congenial, friendly and open,” Burke said. “He wanted to know why things happened. When you teach a class with 100 to 150 students, isn’t it amazing that (Sinito) made such an impression? When I read that he had bought Key Center, I said, ‘Good for him.’ ”

For Sinito, buying his first properties also solidified his passion for the low-income housing business: “These are folks with needs. They are the least of the least,” Sinito said. At the conference, he reminded managers to hold Thanksgiving dinners at the properties because they provide social contact as well as food for some residents who lack families to visit.

A crucial step came in 1995, when Millennia was technically launched and Sinito owned about 1,000 units. That was when Millennia bought a six-property portfolio of Northeast Ohio senior citizen apartments from Cleveland developer John Ferchill. Sinito said he and his wife, who had created Lockkeepers as an upscale restaurant a few years before, refinanced the restaurant to swing the portfolio’s purchase.

The other key thing was listening to advice people gave him. In 1988, he bought a 52-unit portfolio where Sinito said, “I did everything wrong. I hired the wrong general contractor. I had the wrong financing. I had to take over the construction and run it myself.”

The late Kenneth Snyder, a BakerHostetler lawyer who would later become its managing partner and died in 2005, told Sinito in the late 1980s, as Sinito recalls it, “‘You’re going to be successful. You’re hard-working.’ He advised me to be careful about the scale of my business as I grew.” He emphasized building a solid organization. In 1992, Sinito decided to hire some key executives. That is when his CFO, John McGinty, joined Millennia, and Allan Pintner, vice president emeritus, came on after a long career in federal subsidized housing at the former Associated Estates Corp. of Richmond Heights, which had developed thousands of such units primarily in Northeast Ohio.

A new era

Today, Millennia has its own in-house design staff with two architects and an interior designer, an in-house construction company and a four-lawyer legal team. Such staffers allow closer control of the business than using outside specialists.

On a tour of Millennia’s new office on Key Tower’s 13th floor, the place is strikingly different from most downtown offices.

For one, it’s a bustling place. Staffers huddle over construction drawings or meet with designs in front of them. Sinito and the firm’s executive staff are scheduled to move to the 40th floor by Sept. 1 from Millennia’s Thornburg Station project in Valley View, a mixed-use project that is up for sale. In early August, the 40th floor was just beginning to take shape. Sinito will occupy the building’s northeast corner with a view of North Coast Harbor, the Hilton Cleveland Convention Center Hotel and Burke Lakefront Airport. When it’s in, the 87-person headquarters office will occupy more than twice the 18,000 square feet it has in Valley View.

On the tour, Sinito quizzed staffers about how the new layout was working for them in communicating with other departments. Known for being detail oriented, he even commented on how the new carpet on the 40th floor looked more blue, and better, than the sample.

“This is like a dream come true,” Sinito said as he looked down at a broad sweep of Lake Erie from such a height.

Buying Key Center was the end of a two-year undertaking to find Millennia’s new home. He started sizing up downtown because he looked for office buildings to convert to apartments years ago. The result of years of searching is just now being realized as the first tenants are moving into Corning Place, apartments in the 1890s-vintage former Garfield Building at Euclid Avenue and East Sixth Street.

As Corning Place came together, he also looked for a home for Millennia because he enjoyed the place that downtown has become and needed room to grow. After Key Center owner Columbia Property Trust put the buildings on the market, he was approached to become an investor with Scott Wolstein and lease two floors of the building. After Wolstein’s deal fell through, he discussed leasing space with another bidder Sinito did not identify. After that Chicago group passed, Sinito decided to buy it himself.

“I got excited about what we could do here,” Sinito said, both as a tenant and owner. He said that as a tenant, Millennia would have occupied two side-by-side floors. Now, doing what he considers best for the building, most of the staff is on the never-before-occupied 13th floor. The remainder is on the 40th floor.

Seeing the light

The makeup of the building also played into the favor of the local buyer. When the skyscraper was built in the late-1980s, developers Richard and David Jacobs of Westlake won a 20-year tax abatement on the project by incorporating the 400-room hotel in the project, which the city needed to promote its emerging goal to become a tourist and convention destination. However, the combination turned off many buyers — particularly institutional-quality buyers, who typically buy large office buildings.

“I don’t think we would have gotten the project if it had been only an office building or only a hotel,” Sinito said. “The office buyers did not want the hotel. And the hotel buyers did not want the office building.”

However, Sinito said with his food and beverage background, he saw opportunity with the hotel. As a result, Millennia Hospitality took over the hotel’s restaurant, where it’s installing an Italian restaurant and is adding a sushi operation in place of the former newsstand.

“We have 3,000 people working in the building who can be customers of the restaurant,” Sinito said. “Previously, there was no synergy to the three parts of the building. Our challenge is to create that.”

Likewise, the renovated fitness center, operated by an outside firm, will serve hotel guests and the public, and Millennia will operate an event center in the dining room and related space in the formerly private Club at Key Center. Plans to renovate the Marriott are being worked out with the hotel chain. Other improvements will soften the lobby and replace deteriorating pavers on the building’s east side.

“We don’t take the typical landlord’s view of the building,” Sinito said. “We look at it as a tenant. What do we want? A pleasant setting. Food. Artwork. Lots of light.”

All told, the improvements are budgeted at more than $25 million. Sinito said the ability to retain Jacobs Real Estate Services of Westlake to lease and manage the property also was an important factor in the transaction.

“Tom Kropf has been here since the beginning, and Doug Miller worked with Richard and David Jacobs on the development,” he said.

Work still to do

Alec Pacella, an investment specialist and managing principal of the NAI Daus, pointed out that the $276 million purchase of the skyscraper overshadowed another transaction associated with the deal. Concurrent with the acquisition, Millennia landed a lease with Forest City Realty Trust for the megadeveloper to move into seven floors at Key Tower from its former headquarters in Terminal Tower, which it had sold. Pacella said the lease is the largest in downtown Cleveland since 1995, when the former LTV Corp. (now part of ArcelorMittal) moved into what’s now 200 Public Square.

Sinito also has a loose end to tie up downtown.

He bought 75 Public Square in 2014, but plans for converting the office building to apartments have come to naught because Millennia has not landed key state tax credits for the project. A potential sale to a hotel developer also fell through.

Millennia looked at moving into 75 Public Square, but Sinito said the building’s floor plates are too small for it and the company would have wound up on too many floors. And going after Huntington shows he’s still hunting major projects.

“I love to work,” he said. “I’ve always worked.”

And Sinito’s end game?

“I really hope my three kids want to be in the business,” he said.


Published at Sun, 20 Aug 2017 04:01:00 +0000

Things To Do In Chicago (2017)

Things To Do In Chicago (2017)

The Legend shows you around Chicago Illinois and some of its best things to do like skyscrapers, museums, aquarium and amusement park.

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