Imagine igniting an entire neighborhood with the proverbial flick of a switch. That's what entrepreneur Alan Glazen has in mind for the North Shores Collinwood neighborhood, specifically the stretch of Waterloo Road by the Beachland Ballroom.
Rather than open one new restaurant in the underperforming neighborhood, Glazen is working with multiple parties to simultaneously launch five — instantly turning the area into a destination.
"I'm calling it Project Light Switch," says the 62-year-old owner of ABC Tavern, XYX the Tavern, and Viaduct Lounge. "I'm so excited about the idea of the best people in the city combining to go turn on a neighborhood."
While far from a sure thing — Glazen puts the odds at around 30 percent — the obstacles continue to melt away. Glazen has spoken to all of the city's best chefs and operators, many of whom have expressed a desire to be a part of the project. Those chefs include Michael Symon, Jonathon Sawyer, Steve Schimoler, and others. Real estate deals are all but done on five separate spaces in the immediate area.
"This began just as an idea but now I feel like there is no reason I can't pull this off," says Glazen. "I'm in a unique position to get this done; I can afford the altruism."
That altruism would likely come in the form of sweetheart deals on build-out, rent, and financing. The projects would not be copies of current concepts, but rather pet projects that a chef has been dying to try.
"I've asked everybody that I know in the business to do a fun and quirky thing and they are all interested," adds Glazen, whose parents grew up in that neighborhood.
In addition to the restaurants — which would all open on the same day — Glazen is pursing a compelling mix of entertainment options. One concept involves a club featuring Rock Hall President Terry Stewart and his vast record collection. Another would offer free rehearsal and recording space for musicians.
"To me, that block could be the heart of indie music in Cleveland," Glazen says. "I see this as a great moment in time for a neighborhood to go from zero to 100."
Lap of Luxe: Four-year-old Luxe Kitchen & Lounge has new culinary leadership. Chef Brian Okin has been hired as executive chef. Founder of Dinner in the Dark — the monthly six-course dinner that raises money for charities — Okin most recently worked at Fountain.
Before that, he operated his own eatery, Verve, on downtown's Carnegie Avenue in space now occupied by Carnegie Kitchen.
Okin, who started this week, says he and owner Melissa Cole have been in talks on how to take the funky Italian-Mediterranean bistro "to the next level."
"Luxe has a cool vibe and lots of potential," Okin says. "We just need to solidify the menu based on the original concept. I think Luxe can be something special in Cleveland."
Okin says that diners can expect a pretty drastic menu change within a few weeks.
Luxe is at 6605 Detroit Ave. Learn more at 216-920-0600, or visit luxecleveland.com.