Nicholas Lillios’ great-grandfather C.C. Card built two buildings on Inman Street in the early 1900s. The buildings housed the first car dealership in Cleveland are now being converted into loft apartments.
“This is a large investment in downtown Cleveland,” Lillios said during the monthly MainStreet Cleveland meeting held Monday at the Elks Lodge.
Lillios traveled through the history of his family and the evolution of downtown Cleveland as he presented a PowerPoint presentation explaining when the first building — referred to as “Ford One” — was constructed.
He said the building was basically a wooden structure with a brick facade. Model T Fords were kept inside on display. In the 1930s, “Ford Two” was constructed of more modern steel framing and finished with a brick facade. The car business had evolved into a repair shop as well and now the structure totaled 22,000 square feet.
In the 1960s C.C. Card moved to South Lee Highway near the new “bypass” now known as Keith Street.
The old building had since held offices for a bank and the downstairs portion has been transformed into a dance studio.
“We know of no other structure still standing which first sold Model Ts or Model A Fords,” Lillios said.
That resulted in the placement of the building being accepted by the National Register of Historic Places.
Lillios plans to construct 14 apartments inside the historic structure. He also plans to preserve and restore the wood, brick and steel elements used in the original construction.
“Ford One will have five apartments and Ford Two will have nine,” said Lillios.
Lillios said the venture will have several positive effects on downtown, including bringing residential living to the area, which should make it safer; investments such as other businesses; night life and music venues and others.
“I would like to see a grocer return to the downtown area. Where there are people, there is a need and we are helping create that need,” Lillios said.
He has already reclaimed several old buildings in the downtown area and converted them to loft apartments and housing businesses on the ground floor.
The old Spot Restaurant located on Ocoee Street, and the Wood’s Jewelers building which is located one block north on Ocoee have both been converted to loft living space.
Lillios reflected on Sherry Brown’s venture a few years ago after she converted several buildings in the Five Points area to loft living.
Lillios said his proposal is to have affordable living and a single bedroom loft leasing at $500 per month, and two bedroom lofts for $1,000 a month.
“We have already had inquiries about them,” he said.