Lighting up Playhouse Square
Story by Carlo Wolff
When you enter The Lumen at E. 17th Street and Euclid Avenue you step into an atmosphere designed to make you feel larger – and, perhaps, richer – than life. Part of that derives from the luminous, silver-colored upholstery on the sleek lobby furniture. Part, too, stems from the giant mosaic of Selene behind check-in.
Framed in a red more akin to scarlet, the Greek goddess of moonlight in the tall, silver lobby consists of 22,400 tiles created in Spain. Selene’s image took about a week to install. Selene looms large in a very big, paradoxically graceful building.
According to Matt McClung, senior community manager for Greystar, the company managing The Lumen, the 34-story, glass-walled edifice in downtown Cleveland’s Playhouse Square is Ohio’s tallest residential structure. It’s also the first ground-up apartment building constructed in Cleveland in 40 years, according to a news release from Playhouse Square, the nonprofit that owns The Lumen.
At nearly 400 feet, Cleveland’s newest skyscraper dominates its one-acre lot and is far more dramatic than the parking lot it supersedes. The Lumen’s glittering palette, underlined by those vivid “theater red” accents, also references the giant GE Chandelier beaming over Playhouse Square. The developer chose “lumen” as the building’s name “to reflect the energy surrounding Playhouse Square” and the importance of light in theater, according to the Playhouse Square website.
Groundbreaking for the project took place in April 2018. Putting together the financing took quite some time, and construction wasn’t over until fall of 2020. A $55 million construction loan, $50 million in tax-exempt bonds, a $1 million Cuyahoga County loan and $5 million in the tax-increment financing that has helped so many downtown Cleveland projects figure in The Lumen’s finance stack.
Despite a challenging gestation, The Lumen is doing well, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, McClung says. Occupancy stood at 44% as of mid-May, and more than 75% of the apartments in the gleaming, 318-unit structure have been leased.
“We have an abundance of people coming in this summer,” McClung says.
Which is sweet news coming after 2020. The coronavirus slowed construction of the $135 million project by only a few weeks, McClung notes, adding people began to move into The Lumen that July 19. “We were supposed to open July 1,” McClung says. “Not too bad.” Adjusting to COVID-19 also meant marketing the space had to shift from actual to virtual.
The tenant mix includes professional athletes, medical professionals, college students and suburbanites seeking to downsize. Those accustomed to working from home but miss going to the office can use the business center on the fifth floor to “go somewhere different within the building,” McClung says.
McClung speculates the average age of a Lumen tenant is 38, and the dominant demographic is working professionals. He notes that “at this point, we don’t have many children.”
Reserved for business and socializing, the fifth floor has no residences. In addition, the Sky Lounge – the building’s upper deck and in effect its 35th floor – offers commanding views of downtown Cleveland, including Progressive Field and, of course, Playhouse Square. Designed to nurture the building’s own community, the Sky Lounge is open to all residents and includes a “rentable space” for private parties. That space includes an area with state-of-the art cooking equipment and a big drink cooler in the middle. Sink into an inviting chair at the edge of the Sky Lounge, look down on the city in all its welcome summertime bustle, and you’ll feel in charge.
The fifth floor features 22,000 square feet of amenities, both inside and outside. Spiced with theatrical touches including imaginative, faux-Romanesque statuaries, it boasts two outdoor televisions, fire pits, a dry bar area and four gas grills. There’s a game room with billiards and shuffleboard that residents can retire to after they hold business conferences or for hangouts with friends.
Other niceties in Cleveland’s latest version of luxury apartment living include an outdoor terrace with gas grilling stations, a heated lap pool, a fitness center spanning cardiovascular machines and a separate area for yoga and wellness classes, a pet spa and dog run, an attached parking garage with an entrance exclusive to residents, and floor-to-ceiling windows and up-to-the-minute residential appurtenances that are hallmarks of such upscale clusters.
Units range from a one-bedroom at 571 square feet to a three-bedroom penthouse of 1,932 square feet. The respective monthly rates are $1,488 for the one-bedroom “to a little over $7,400” for the penthouse, McClung says. Rent covers water, sewer and gas. Residents pay for electricity and communications and entertainment media. Sanitizing is a value: The Lumen offers contactless options for rent payment and service requests, and the air-filtration system is state-of-the-art. Security is exacting and contemporary, McClung notes: “You have to use a fob to even operate the elevator.”
Other recent entries in the busy Cleveland luxury apartment mix are The 9, The Beacon, The Standard and The May. Work on Euclid Grand Apartments, another Greystar-managed property on Euclid some five blocks west of The Lumen, is nearing completion.
What makes The Lumen so special?
Joshua Halpern is a veteran of downtown living who signed a lease for his 890-square-foot one-bedroom last July.
“I’ve been living downtown for seven or eight years now,” he says. “I went to law school at Cleveland-Marshall right down the street. I worked in a law firm in Public Square.”
Halpern, who attends B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike, clearly likes contemporary Pop Art, examples of which adorn the walls of his apartment. Not to mention the views of downtown and the fresh air he can bring in through his open-latch windows.
When the Independence office where he worked closed because of COVID-19, he went looking for a place where he could both live and work. Now Halpern manages the financial practice he inherited from his father, working out of a nicely arranged room just off the entrance to his Lumen home. He also does business with clients on the fifth-floor amenity lounge at The Lumen.
“Not bad for a home office,” Halpern says of his functional, stylish work space.