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Optometrist, Dr. Daniel Freson, is being forced out of MRN Ltd owned United Bank Building

Optometrist, Dr. Daniel Freson, is being forced out of MRN Ltd owned United Bank Building

by Bruce Checefsky       

(Plain Press, July 2019)    Dr. Daniel Freson wants to help people.  

   His optometrist practice has been at the same location on the first floor of the United Bank Building at 2012 W. 25thStreet for more than thirty-seven years. With the W. 25th – Ohio City Rapid Station and Greater Cleveland RTA bus service for the 22, 51-A-B_C across the street from his offices, the location is ideal for his clients–many of which depend on public transportation.

   But that’s about to change. MRN, Ltd, a family owned real estate Development Company based in Cleveland andowner of the United Bank Building, is refusing to renew his lease.

   “When I first starting renting, I had several three-year terms. After that, I had five-year terms. I never received a notice that my lease had expired in April 2018. I was placed on month-to-month. When I called about renewing my lease this spring, MRN Ltd told me that I would be dealt with when they got around to it. Until then, I was on a month-to-month lease.”

   According to Crain’s Cleveland Business journal, MRN Ltd bought the United Bank Building in 2008. Earlier this year, the company announced that it planned to open new apartments called Market District Lofts in the 1925-vintage office building. The suites at United Bank Building include studios and one-bedrooms ranging from 484 to 916 square feet in size. Rents range from $870 to $1,375 monthly.

   The nine-story, $1.5 million United Bank Building opened in 1925 as the tallest and largest commercial building on Cleveland’s west side. It was one of the last of a series of classical bank buildings constructed in Cleveland during the 1910s and 1920s, a golden age for the city’s banking industry.

   The Cleveland architecture firm Walker and Weeks designed the United Bank Building and nearly 20 other banks throughout the city in the 1910s and 1920s. Though, perhaps, best known in Cleveland for its monumental public buildings like Severance Hall, Municipal Stadium, and the Public Auditorium, Walker and Weeks eventually became one of the most sought-after bank builders in the Midwest. (source: clevelandhistorical.org)

   Dr. Freson’s first floor office includes two exam rooms, a waiting room, auxiliary testing room, phone storage room, a closest and lunch room plus another office. He sees about fifty patients a month. Most of his patients come from the surrounding neighborhoods: Riverview Apartments, Clark-Fulton, downtown and West 9th Street, and from as far as Parma and Lakewood. He accepts a number of payment arrangements for services including Medicare and Medicaid. The vast majority of Medicaid enrollees lack access to other affordable health insurance. 

   His patients range in age from 4 years-old to elderly people in their nineties. 

   Dr. Freson knew something was wrong when he contacted MRN Ltd in mid-April to discuss a new lease. He was referred to Mr. Joseph Del Re, Chief Operating Office, who told him in a phone conversation that they were not planning to renew his lease. 

   A few weeks later, on May 30th, he received a letter from Mr. Geoffrey Goss, General Counsel and HR Director at MRN Ltd informing him that he had thirty days to vacate the property.            

   Prior to the letter from Mr. Goss, Dr. Freson tried to talk to Mr. Ari Maron, spokesman for the Cleveland-based realty company responsible for the East Fourth Neighborhood and Uptown retail/multifamily properties–his partners are Rick, his father and company founder, and his younger brother, Jori, but his request for a 10-minute phone conversation went unanswered. 

   In a phone conversation with Dr. Freson, Mr. Goss was willing to extend the lease an extra 30-days, until the end of July. A few days later, he sent an email requesting that Dr. Freson sign a contingency lease and provide an exit strategy. The email stated that he was eligible to stay the extra month to move his business but, just as quickly, Mr. Goss, apparently not speaking on behalf of MNR Ltd, changed his mind. Dr. Freson was told to leave by June 30th.

   “MRN’s timetable is of no concern to me,” said Dr. Freson. “My timetable is obviously of no concern to them. I’m assuming they rented the space to someone else, but they’ve told me nothing.”

   Dr. Freson will have to cancel previously scheduled appointments if he doesn’t get a lease extension. Generally, he schedules clients two or three months in advance and, in some cases, up to two-years. He’s searching for a new location in Ohio City for his practice but doesn’t have anything finalized yet.

   “I’d like to pay my employees and get a transition plan going but I don’t know if that’s going to be possible,” he said. “Counting myself, we have seven part-time employees and two full-time. I’d like to stay in the neighborhood and take my employees with me.”

   Tears welled up in his eyes as he looked across the office where his optometrist business has been for the past thirty-seven years. “I’ll probably find a place where I can continue for a few more years,” said Dr. Freson. “I think I’ll be okay.”

Editor’s Note: Dr. Freson found a new office space at Lutheran Hospital, 1730 W. 25th, Suite 3000.

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