The May repurposes an iconic Cleveland building

Giving a landmark new life

The May building looks out to downtown Cleveland’s Public Square. | Bedrock

By Carlo Wolff

Downtown Cleveland has experienced far more than a facelift in the past five years, making a decisive transition to being a place to live, not just work. It now offers various kinds of home in projects such as The Lumen, the Residences at Halle, The 9, The Athlon, and, opening its doors during the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2020, the mixed-use development called The May. 

All feature high-quality finishes, state-of-the-art appliances, technology as high as the ceilings, parking, great views of downtown, and sophisticated style. Pet friendliness rules. What makes The May different?

For one, there’s its history. For another, there’s a synergistic hotel component.

Opened in 1914 as The May Company, the massive building with its impressive terra-cotta façade was said to be the third-largest department store in the country. Designed by the famous urban planner Daniel Burnham, who also designed Cleveland’s Mall, it is massive at 148 feet tall and 880,000 square feet. In 1931, the addition of the seventh and eighth floors expanded its sales area to more than 1 million square feet. It was a key shopping destination for Clevelanders until it closed in January 1993, a victim of flight to the suburbs and changing shopping habits.

The May spans a city block, from Euclid Avenue to Prospect Avenue. Talk about footprint.

This singular, steel-frame structure was vacant for years after the store closed, and much of the interior architecture was gutted, according to the website Remnants of its former glory adorn its rebirth, like the thick, tall (and waterproofed) pillars in its open-air, three-story atrium on the sixth floor, and some of the windows in its interior staircases. 

The May’s colorful open-air atrium. | Bedrock

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s Detroit-based Bedrock real estate firm acquired the building in 2017. It redeveloped The May as apartments, offering as of March 11, rental units at monthly market rates of $1,270 for a 663-square-foot one-bedroom to $2,990 for a 1,548-square-foot two-bedroom. 

Readying The May for residential living was challenging, says Ivy Greaner, Bedrock’s chief operating officer. 

“Some of the challenges Bedrock had to overcome included turning the former department store’s 100,000-square-foot floor plates into apartments, designing an interior 500-space parking garage and an open-air atrium space, and restoring or replacing the exterior terra-cotta façade,” Greaner writes in a Jstyle email interview.

Inside The May

The May’s website lists units spanning a studio of 570 square feet, one-bedrooms of 663 to 1,080 square feet, two-bedrooms of 955 to 1,528 square feet, and a three-bedroom of 1,413 square feet. There are 45 different floor plans. Each apartment has a washer-dryer stack.

The first floor is earmarked for retail. For now, longtime tenants Cuyahoga Community College, Taco Bell Cantina and the restaurant Pura Vida are The May’s nonresidential anchors. The May includes about 900,000 square feet of residential, with approximately 80,000 square feet available for retail. And Bedrock officials say there is significant interest in the available retail space.

Bedrock does not disclose specific financial information, Greaner says, at the same time noting that Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives were applied to the building’s restoration. Bedrock also does not release occupancy information.

“Dedicated time, resources and consideration were devoted to the project to respect the landmark’s history, including restoring features such as the original wall sconces, the illuminated May Company signage and pediment clock,” Greaner says. “We also recreated some of the interior historic column bases and column capitals, the upper-level windows, and we refurbished the original lower-level windows with the iconic ‘M’ insignia.”

A staged two-bedroom unit at The May. | Bedrock

A tour of the building, including a look at apartments of various sizes, attests to its personality. The May exudes confidence, even power. Bedrock’s restoration has carved it into various configurations, all of which feel airy. The living rooms and kitchen areas, graced by the natural light streaming through the tall windows, are spacious. The smaller bedrooms feel cozy at worst, not cramped. Wide hallways add to the building’s breathable atmosphere. The color palette is greige, with dark accents. It’s soothing.

The May is anything but cookie-cutter. Its 300-plus apartments are an inviting blend of the historic and the contemporary, including a large “makerspace,” a yoga studio, a 6,000-square-foot fitness center said to be downtown’s largest, and a touch of whimsy in playful lobby furniture. All these are available to The May’s residents. There’s an outdoor patio on the roof with gas grills, fire pits and commanding views of Public Square. 

As of March 16, all these also became available to guests of a more transitory nature.

The May’s 6,000-square-foot fitness center. | Bedrock

Enter the ROOST

The May is Bedrock’s first residential venture in Cleveland. It’s also the first ROOST Apartment Hotel outside of Philadelphia, the headquarters of the extended-stay hotel brand owned by Method Co. As of March 15, 62 apartments on three floors of The May are now available for both short- and long-term ROOST accommodations, according to a news release. 

The release stresses the sophisticated design and luxuries of the ROOST apartments, from Danish-modern coffee tables to vintage Turkish rugs, artisanal in-room coffee and a bike share program. The vibe is business-boutique.

It seems urbanity is the goal at both The May and Cleveland’s first ROOST. 

“We are thrilled to open ROOST Cleveland in the May Company building in the heart of downtown Cleveland,” Randall Cook, CEO and co-founder of Method Co, says in the release. “The 62 ROOST units are stunning with the largest floor plans in our portfolio, oversized windows that flood the units with natural light and access to The May’s incredible amenities.”

“The May caters to everyone who seeks a welcoming environment to live, work and play in downtown Cleveland,” Greaner says. She calls The May “one of the largest adaptive reuse projects in the city’s history,” and its incorporation of current and nostalgic elements “rather unique.” With emphasis on the unique. 

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