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Studio West is a first-in-the-nation model for creating an entire LGBTQ ecosystem at such a catalytic scale with a focus on philanthropy, health and wellness, arts and culture, and entrepreneurship that can be used as a replicable model for other communities across the country. Studio West’s novel and holistic reimagining of the neighborhood will be responsive to the dynamic needs of the LGBTQ community and will utilize the power of entertainment as a great convener to provide foot traffic to LGBTQ businesses and aggregate resources for LGBTQ philanthropy. Studio West will be built with the LGBTQ community at the forefront, but welcoming to all.
For the last six months, co-developers Betsy Figgie and Daniel Budish have been quietly assembling almost 100,000 square feet of real estate on the Lakewood/Cleveland border to house an array of LGBTQ-oriented entertainment, sports, and dining venues as well as LGBTQ businesses and social services that build off nearby LGBTQ assets. Co-developer Daniel Budish states,
“This project will feature LGBTQ entertainment and drag on a large scale (think drag performances and brunches, dancing, and a new Fieldhouse for sports and recreation), which will generate foot traffic and resources that can support LGBTQ businesses and services – ultimately increasing the ‘philanthropy pie’ for LGBTQ+ causes throughout Cleveland.”
Studio West will be an inclusive space that will add extensively to Cleveland’s existing LGBTQ assets, achieved through close coordination with pillars of the arts and LGBTQ communities such as Phyllis “Seven” Harris, Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. Phyllis, who recently became the first donor of the West 117 Foundation, states
“This project will help connect LGBTQ+ individuals in Northeast Ohio in ways we’ve always imagined but now have the opportunity to bring to fruition. Collaboration and partnership are the pillars of the work we do at the Center to create sustainable and reliable services improving the quality of life for LGBTQ+ residents and guests of Northeast Ohio and we couldn’t be more thrilled to unite with the Studio West team in these efforts.
This comes at a pivotal moment when advocacy and support for the LGBTQ+ community is imperative to keeping us healthy and safe. That is something always worth investing in.”
Budish and Figgie’s combined experience working on complicated, multi-tenant projects with extensive capital stacks will enable the successful development and stewardship of this ambitious project dedicated to LGBTQ youth, adults and allies. Co-developer Betsy Figgie adds,
“The key to a successful community based project is strong involvement from the community partners that are integral to making the project vision a reality.
Community Partners such as the LGBT Center, Plexus LGBT and Allied Chamber of Commerce, the City of Lakewood and North Coast College, as well as the core project team including Dr. Lady J, Lauren Tatum, Dan Houseman, Nick Hobbs, Jen Keller, Sam Schisler, Suzanne Hamilton, Jeff Graham, Councilman Dan O’Malley and Ilah Adkins, have been so critical in moving this project forward.”
“These spaces become an exciting way to showcase LGBTQ-owned companies and queer entrepreneurs while also being a model for creating a welcoming and diverse business district.”
Mother of Columbus’s House of West, Virginia West will also be the House Mother for Studio West and will be bringing her Stadium Virginium and other major productions to Cleveland. West has raised over two million dollars for charity through these shows and other charitable events and will be a major asset to all parts of the project. Director of Programming, Education and Outreach, Dr. Lady J, states that
“Studio West will work closely with LGBTQ+ community leaders and organizations to create inclusive programming and spaces while also assisting in restoring programming and events that have been lost or displaced without a large, local LGBTQ nightclub.
Simultaneously, we will be bringing in significant artists from the national and international stage to provide a wider lens on LGBTQ+ entertainment from drag and burlesque to circus acts and live music.
We will also be implementing processes that ensure that this space is truly inclusive, welcoming, and safe for All members of LGBTQ Greater Cleveland.
Among the first of these processes will be forming a hiring committee that features community leaders across the spectrum of backgrounds and identities that also emphasizes the voices and concerns of the historically marginalized, coupled with the creation of programming that showcases all voices, backgrounds, and perspectives.”
Studio West is currently comprised of three properties – the 55K square foot Phantasy Entertainment Complex on Detroit Ave. (closing to be inked in July of 2020), a 16K square foot former manufacturing facility at 1384 Hird Ave., and a mixed-use apartment and retail building at 11600 Detroit Ave.
1384 Hird Avenue – The Fieldhouse @ Studio West:
This 16,000 sqft warehouse will become a new gym, restaurant and sports bar built with the Stonewall Sports community in mind. This project will combine recreation and fitness, with opportunities for open gym rentals, fitness classes, and all-season dodgeball and volleyball, with a new restaurant and bar concept being created in collaboration with Juan Vergara of Barroco fame. New mural walls will feature LGBTQ artists and will enliven the multiple outdoor courtyard and patio spaces.
Local Lakewood-based architect Larsen Architects has been hired to prepare plans for this multi-use facility. Special attention is being given to creating a unique and inclusive space that is fully ADA compliant and flexible for a wide variety of fitness activities and uses. The design of the restaurant and fieldhouse is being led by Philadelphia-based Groundswell Design Group, an LGBTQ-owned company that will ensure that the feel is vibrant, safe, and welcoming. The Albert M. Higley Co. and Aaron Kramer have been tapped to provide construction services across the property.
11802 Detroit Avenue – The Phantasy Entertainment Complex:
The Phantasy has been a landmark Lakewood entertainment destination for decades. Budish and Figgie intend to preserve the building’s history by listing it on the National Register of Historic Places and making the Phantasy the cornerstone building in this new hub for the LGBTQ community.
The venue will consist of six entertainment destinations of various scales and themes plus several ground-floor retail spaces. Budish and Figgie will look to renovate the storefronts to provide affordable space for LGBTQ retail as well as a new coworking space and podcast studio geared towards LGBTQ entrepreneurs. The entertainment venues will be renovated to provide LGBTQ nightlife with a dedicated space and to elevate the art of drag in Cleveland on an international scale.
Cleveland Development Advisors has provided a commitment for financing to acquire the building and provide time to work through the design and permanent financing process. Budish and Figgie anticipate utilizing historic tax credits, new markets tax credits, tax increment financing and other city and state subsidy programs to fully renovate the complex in a manner that enables rents to remain low for the cadre of LGBTQ businesses and non-profit tenants that they are looking to support.
11600 Detroit Avenue:
This mixed-use commercial/residential property has eight fully leased apartments and five fully leased commercial storefronts and is located just down the street from the Phantasy and the Fieldhouse. Figgie and Budish aim to support all current tenants, which include My Friends Restaurant, a 24-hour diner and a great asset for this late-night entertainment district. However, if any of the residential or commercial spaces do eventually turn over, Figgie and Budish can dedicate the space to additional LGBTQ-focused tenants, with furnishings generously donated by Deba Gray and Serena Harragin of Gray’s Auctioneers.
The apartments make Studio West a true, mixed-use neighborhood and can provide the opportunity for Figgie and Budish to reserve apartments for LGBTQ seniors, LGBTQ students, and LGBTQ youth in need of a place to stay.
West 117 Foundation’s Mission Statement:
Working under the tenets of intersectionality and inclusivity, The West 117 Foundation will manage and reinvest funds to have the greatest impact on entrepreneurship, arts & culture, and health & human services for All members of the LGBTQ+ community of Greater Cleveland.
The West 117 Foundation President, Lauren Tatum, explains that
“The West 117 Foundation has been formed to harness the major investment that is taking place at Studio West and be able to reinvest funds back to the community where it is needed most – whether to support local LGBTQ-owned and operated businesses or services for LGBTQ youth – the opportunities to affect positive change are endless.
Working with community organizations such as the LGBT Center, Plexus Chamber of Commerce, and the Cleveland Foundation, we can prioritize resources to initiatives that will fill in the gaps of the current LGBTQ philanthropic ecosystem.
We already have a multitude of potential ideas to support housing, education, arts & culture, entrepreneurship and health & human services initiatives both at Studio West and throughout Greater Cleveland and look forward to engaging with the community to better understand how we can help make the greatest impact.”
Initial West 117 Foundation board members include arts entrepreneur and small business owner Lauren Tatum, Suzanne Hamilton with ErieBank, and Ilah Adkins Esq as well as Lakewood City Council President Dan O’Malley as a non-voting member. Lauren Steiner, President of Grants Plus, is assisting The West 117 Foundation in identifying national and regional grants to bring additional outside resources to the LGBTQ community of Greater Cleveland.
We can’t wait for this project to take shape and see how it continues to evolve – the future of the LGBTQ community in Greater Cleveland is bright and we are so excited to be a part of it.
Ways to get involved:
- For further information on West 117 Foundation and to become a Founding Donor to support this exciting project, please visit www.west117foundation.org/make-a-donation/
- Lease space!
- If you are looking to volunteer your time and/or particular skillset to Studio West please contact [email protected]