Cleveland Hostel owner plans boutique hotel in Ohio City

H&LA Vice president Laurel Keller weighed in with the Cleveland Plain Dealer on plans for a small boutique hotel in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood.

Published by: Michelle Jarbobe/Cleveland Plain Dealer
Published date: April 2017

Cleveland Hostel owner Mark Raymond is shouldering his second hospitality project in the Ohio City neighborhood: A boutique hotel blending old and new construction.

The 25-room project, named the Hulett Hotel in a nod to Northeast Ohio’s industrial history, would sit on West 25th Street north of Church Avenue. Raymond aims to renovate a three-story brick building, vacated years ago by Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, and to build a four-story, modern addition on an adjacent parking lot to the north.

Both creative and risky, the Hulett project would introduce a new type of lodging to a neighborhood seeing a surge of investment. Apartment developers and homebuyers have been flocking to Ohio City, but shorter-term lodging is limited to bed-and-breakfasts, house-sharing and the hostel, a 60-bed, budget-friendly property that opened in 2012.

Mark Raymond opened the Cleveland Hostel at 2090 W. 25th St. in 2012, six-tenths of a mile south of his proposed boutique hotel site.Marvin Fong/The Plain Dealer

“Mark demonstrated with the hostel that there is a demand for hospitality,” said Ashley Shaw, planning and economic development manager for nonprofit neighborhood group Ohio City, Inc. “Usually it takes somebody local to test the market and prove the market.”

Raymond, a 36-year-old Geneva native and Ohio City resident, searched for a hotel site for years.

Determined to buy, not rent, he struck out on a handful of properties before Ohio City, Inc., brought his attention to the West 25th Street building, perhaps most recognizable for its exterior sign, left over from the ministry days: “Rev. Richard E. Sering Center for Right Relationships.”

The prior owner was giving up on an apartment idea that had become too costly and unwieldy. So Raymond stepped in. Property records show that an investor group led by Raymond and his father paid $550,000 for the building and parking lot last year. They’re planning a $2.8 million investment that will hinge on a mix of traditional financing and community lending, plus plenty of hands-on attention.

Big hotel brands typically won’t touch a project that’s smaller than 60 rooms. The Hulett will be an independent hotel, with in-house marketing and management. It won’t be tied into a national guest-loyalty program or have the name recognition of a major chain, but it also won’t be saddled with franchise fees or corporate constraints.

Business travelers typically prefer name-brand properties, said Laurel Keller of Hotel & Leisure Advisors, a Lakewood-based hospitality consulting firm. But the Hulett could carve out a niche catering to visitors seeking a unique experience, just across the Cuyahoga River from downtown but with a smaller neighborhood feel.

“In Ohio City, he can do whatever he wants,” said Keller, who conducted a market study for Raymond three years ago, for a different site, but hasn’t analyzed the current proposal. “He can tie it in with brewery tours. Weekends will be great. … Weekdays, October through May, would be rough. He would have to manufacture some demand or long-term furnish some of those units for people who are in town for medical treatment, to visit a relative – people who need to be here rather than want to be here.”

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