Abandoned nearly eight years, the former Swingos on the Lake – the popular restaurant with unbeatable lake and downtown views – will soon be home to a new lakefront eatery thanks to the vision of local restaurateur Tony George.
Located on the ground floor of the Carlyle on the Lake condominium complex, the building has been vacant since the iconic restaurant closed its doors in 2009. When the property fell into forfeiture after no bids were offered in foreclosure, the Cuyahoga Land Bank stepped in. “With more than $300,000 owed in back taxes and significant condo association fees in arrears, the prospects for redevelopment were waning,” says Gus Frangos, the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s President and General Counsel. “It’s a wonderful space that had been sitting vacant for a very long time. We needed to find a way to ensure the property was returned to productive use and out of the hands of a speculator who could sit on the property, keeping it off the tax roll for years to come.”
After taking control of the property in late 2016, the Cuyahoga Land Bank began to put out feelers to local developers. After much discussion, George, who recently took over operations of Crop in Ohio City and also owns the Harry Buffalo chain and Barley House among other eateries, agreed to acquire and redevelop the property. Part of the agreement included a specification that George immediately begin paying the Carlyle Condominium Association Fees, which run several thousands of dollars per month, and real estate taxes once the sale is finalized.
The developer is currently working with his architect to assess the space and plan for the new restaurant and is confident he can return the property to its former glory. “We are investing more than $1.5 million in demolition and renovation, furniture, fixtures and equipment” says George. “We’re in the demolition phase, and if everything goes as planned, we will be open by December.”
Although the concept is being honed, George is focused on ensuring it fits with the demographic of the area. “We want to make sure we have the right concept that works for the building and its residents, for the city and for us.”
“The Cuyahoga Land Bank is a great mechanism for situations like this where a property sits vacant for years accumulating significant delinquent taxes,” says George. “I can honestly say that if the Cuyahoga Land Bank didn’t get involved, we (nor anyone else) would NOT have touched this property.”