High style down by the river

The Flats at East Bank Apartments puts a fresh twist on a developing neighborhood along the Cuyahoga River


Story by Carlo Wolff
Photography by Michael C. Butz

There were times this summer that Jason Cohen, who grew up in the suburbs and wanted city action, could “see a train, an RTA bus, a plane, a car and a boat at one time” from the window of his fourth-floor bachelor pad at the Flats at East Bank Apartments.

“It’s pretty cool,” says Cohen, a wealth manager associate at Stratos Wealth Partners, a Beachwood firm he commutes to daily. It’s 30 minutes each way, no big deal to a man who clearly enjoys where he lives.

To Cohen, who just signed a second, one-year lease for his 1,700-square-foot corner apartment, the strikingly modern, 241-unit building combines the best of the urban and the suburban – with emphasis on the former.

Jason Cohen enjoys his apartment at the Flats at East Bank Apartments in downtown Cleveland so much that he recently signed on for a second year.

Jason Cohen enjoys his apartment at the Flats at East Bank Apartments in downtown Cleveland so much that he recently signed on for a second year.

Cohen enjoys living in the city – but at a remove; while he can walk to the buzz that is East Fourth Street and Uber to Ohio City and Tremont, going home to his high-style Flats apartment feels like sanctuary.

In 2015, bored with the social life available to him in University Heights, where he owns a home, Cohen decided it was time for his first shot at city life. He’d witnessed the growth of deeply urban hot spots like Tremont and East Fourth over the past seven years and decided to take a chance on the Flats East Bank, the $750-million, multi-phase project developed by The Wolstein Group and Fairmount Properties.

“Seeing and being part of the city is kind of why I moved down here,” says Cohen, noting his father had a hand in Flats East Bank. Harley Cohen is principal of Orange-based construction management firm Harlan & Associates and has been a spokesman for the Wolstein-Fairmount development. The dramatic, towering apartment building is the cornerstone of the second phase of a project that, all told, might take up to eight years to fully develop.

While he loves the high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows of his apartment – not to mention views of Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga River and the Terminal Tower – Cohen hopes the area becomes more of a community, not just a destination limited to residences and restaurants.

In the meantime, he’s pleased with his place, where he entertains up to 30 at a time. With the Cavs becoming NBA champions and the Indians finishing a whisker away from winning the World Series, “it’s just been a crazy, wild ride,” he says of this summer.

Cohen, who attends Park Synagogue and helps out at The Friendship Circle, also enjoys the Sky Park a floor below. It’s a 40,000-square-foot outdoor area, an Astroturf where people can meditate, entertain, grill, play sports or relax. It’s an ultramodern gathering place that, like the subdued palette of the apartments, defines the complex.

The Sky Park also is a favorite spot of fellow resident Anna Ryan’s. She’s luxury property manager for the Flats at East Bank Apartments and moved from suburban Cincinnati to Cleveland when the project was in its infancy.

“It’s kind of nice not to be on a block that has a building and has a building and has a building and has a street light and all the busyness of cars going back and forth,” says Ryan, detailing the difference between a typical urban setting and the oasis that is Flats East Bank. “This kind of feels like I’m in the city, but I’m also looking out at something peaceful and I get away from all the commotion and the commuting and the nightlife.”

Occupancy is at about 92 percent, she says. Apartments in the pet-friendly structure are 720 square feet to 1,700 square feet, at a respective monthly price range of $1,655 to $3,900. They are predominantly one-bedroom units.

“You’d be surprised who lives here,” says Ryan, citing empty nesters and young professionals like herself, Cohen and employees of the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and Ernst & Young. People working for those companies get a break through waived application fees, lower deposits and a 3 percent discount off each month they rent.

What these tenants occupy are state-of-the-art apartments in a style that could be called “champagne industrial.” They feature exposed HVAC, the use of concrete for ceilings and pillars, and a neutral, largely off-white palette, that blend tying them to Cleveland’s labor-intensive past in a futuristic, but not unsettling, way.

These energy-efficient apartments come with a washer/dryer, low-flow toilets, brushed nickel fixtures and an ultramodern kitchen. The fixtures are quirky, handsome and effective, and the furnishings in a 1,023-square-foot model ranged from an extravagant but understated marble dining table to a sturdy, funny settees that look like puffballs.

Color is used for accent, such as a gold spread on the off-white bedspread and a green-and-white mat in front of the double sink. The walls are plain and the lighting is effective, soft yet penetrating. Look out the window and see a part of the Port of Cleveland operation, and nearby is the old U.S. Coast Guard station, an Art Moderne landmark under new management by Cleveland MetroParks.

The interior decoration comes courtesy of Iris Wolstein, widow of developer Bertram “Bart” Wolstein and mother of Wolstein Group principal Scott Wolstein. Dimit Architects of Lakewood worked with the developers on the furniture.

“I have a propensity for contemporary,” Iris Wolstein says. “I’m very concerned with commercial projects being low-maintenance and (with) clean lines, and, of course, in a building like this you’re dealing with different people with different tastes, and I felt that contemporary and clean appeals to most people.”

She kept the color scheme simple. “We kept it soft so that people could go in any direction. They could spice it up with bright colors or keep it a monotone.” The walls are a “taupy gray,” and “the tile is gray and white in the kitchen and in the bathrooms,” she says.

The idea was to give residents a neutral palette to work with. The bedroom carpeting, too, is neutral and simple, though, as befits such a high-class building, “plush is a good word.”

As for the windows, the treatments are uniform. “It’s important with a building that size to keep all the window treatments similar because on the exterior you don’t want to see curtains in one window, shades in one window,” Wolstein says. “So all the window treatments are shades which could be embellished on the inside with draperies or curtains.” She wants the  “face” to be the same all the way around the horseshoe-shaped structure.

“Different projects call for a different feel,” she says. “When we built Barrington Country Club (in Aurora), we wanted that to fit into the community. When we renovated Glenmoor Country Club in Canton, it was a whole different genre because it was a former seminary and we wanted to keep that feel. So it depends on the project and the location.”

Wolstein has been hands-on with interior design on projects ever since her late husband, who died in 2004, began building homes “50, 60 years ago,” she says. “I could decorate that model house, and then, when he moved up the ladder and started building shopping centers, I would work with the architects to design the centers. Then we built hotels and country clubs and I was always involved in that. It was love and devotion.

“When we built this home that I live in, which is, like, 45 years ago, we built a contemporary house and everyone called it modern, and everyone thought that would never last,” she says of her Pepper Pike residence. “But when people come into my home, they think I just built it – contemporary done in a warm atmosphere.”

The Wolstein touch – light, inviting and au courant – applies to the Flats at East Bank Apartments, too.

Carlo Wolff is a freelance writer from South Euclid.

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