(Plain Press, August 2016) Menlo Park Academy, a K-8 school serving gifted children, is working to clean-up and rehabilitate the former Joseph and Feiss Clothcraft Warehouse at 2149 W. 53rd as its new home.
The Joseph & Feiss site, which once housed a large clothing manufacturer, has been abandoned for years. The clothing factory was once a large employer in Cleveland. According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, there were 1,800 employees organized by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America at the site in 1934. The site has been empty since Hugo Boss, which acquired Joseph & Feiss in 1989, moved the last of its operations out of the building in 1997. Several attempts to develop housing at the site fell through.
Janise Bayne of the Cuyahoga County Department of Development said her department awarded the Menlo Park Academy project funds from the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund to help do environmental clean-up of the site. She said the fund will cover 80% of the cost of the environmental clean-up, with the school providing a 20% match. With the clean-up currently underway, all the costs have not yet been complied, but Bayne says the contribution from the loan fund could reach up to $250,000. Bayne says the new school will be a “very cool use of the property.”
On June 28th, Ohio Development Services Agency awarded Menlo Park Academy a Historic Preservation Tax Credit of $826,668 toward the rehabilitation of the Joseph & Feiss building. The agency estimates the total cost of the rehabilitation at $16,618,799.
Fraser Hamilton, a Menlo Park Academy parent and board member, says the school has also secured some federal tax credits toward funding the project. He says the plan is for the new building to be ready for the 2017-2018 school year.
Hamilton said that Menlo Park is a public charter school that started nine years ago with 38 students and has grown to just over 400 students. Hamilton, says Menlo Park Academy is run by a non-profit board of trustees made up of parents, guardians and interested community members.
The Menlo Park Academy website says, “Menlo Park Academy is Ohio’s only tuition-free K-8 community school focused solely on serving the needs of gifted learners, educating the whole child and offering flexible options for modern families.”
Currently, says Hamilton, the school is drawing students from 40 school districts in nine counties. Hamilton says he knows parents from as far away as Kent, Ohio and Peninsula, Ohio who drive in each day to bring their children to the school’s current location at 14400 Triskett in Cleveland.
Hamilton, who has been involved in the preparation of the site for the new school, says the site plan calls for a parking area, a driveway and a playing field. He says on the south side of the building there will be an area for some outdoor classrooms. He says the new school will eventually be able to serve from 700 to 800 students – allowing room for Menlo Park Academy to expand.
Hamilton says one of the goals in choosing the new location on W. 53rd in Cleveland is to increase the enrollment in the school from low income neighborhoods. He says Menlo Park Academy plans to actively recruit gifted students from the neighborhoods surrounding the new school.