Bratenahl Place

Plat No. 631-02-011
One & Two Bratenahl Place
One & Two Bratenahl Place

Bratenahl Development Corporation (BDC) hired Nicholas Satterlee Associates, an architectural firm based in Washington, D.C., to design Bratenahl Place. Nicholas Satterlee was married to villager Meacham Hitchcock’s sister, a connection that underscored his suitability for the project.

BDC’s high-rise complex was to be an apartment living at its finest. The plan created by Satterlee featured two 16-story lakefront towers containing 90 suites each as condominiums. A third 16-story tower resembling the condominiums would be located to the rear and provide 180 units for rental.

BDC hired the Hunkin-Conkey Construction Co. as the general contractor. The Lake Shore Country club was razed in early 1965 with the construction of One and Two Bratenahl Place to start in 1966. BDC decided to build only one of the condominium towers in the first phase.

The summer of 1967 saw the completion of the two Bratenahl Place towers. The two daily Cleveland newspapers hailed the achievement for bringing a “new flavor of sophistication to the Cleveland scene.”

Building One offered a Beauty Salon and Gourmet shop plus a gas station in the underground garage. A restaurant was located off the lobby with French cuisine dominating the menu. The restaurant manager, Jean Veluz, a Swiss and master of several languages, came from the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal. The restaurant was open to both building residents and on an invitational membership arrangement for non-residents.

Two Bratenahl Place, half as big as One Bratenahl Place, would be the first high-rise condominium in Ohio.  Included were easements for tennis courts, a swimming pool, and other amenities for use by residents of either building. Adjoining the large lobby was a dance floor on one side with a formal library/living room on the other.

The cost of construction of both high-rises had skyrocketed from an estimated $9.8 million to $17.8 million. BDC filed a lawsuit in 1968 seeking damages of $6.5 million from the Hunkin-Conkey Construction Co. Hunkin-Conkey countersued for $2.1 million. In 1971, after a nine-week court battle, a jury returned a verdict that favored Hunkin-Conkey by $700,000.

Adding to BDC’s financial woes, the selling of “New Bratenahl” turned out to be an uphill battle. The high-rise apartments and townhomes recommended by all the experts were ahead of their time. No matter how luxurious its appointments and how beautiful the urban-style setting, residences were not easily marketed at the height of America’s love affair with suburbia.

The shortage of conveniences in Bratenahl made the sales job even harder, as did lingering memories of the televised images of National Guard tanks patrolling the streets of nearby Hough neighborhood in the aftermath of tensions in the summer 1966.

The glacial progress of the sales effort prompted a reorganization of BDC’s ownership. John Dempsey withdrew from the day-to-day leadership of BDC, and Gertrude Britton became the sole pillar of financial support.

Mrs. Britton, willing and able to continue absorbing BDC’s losses, bought BDC the time needed to fill the two towers and sell the townhomes. She even went so far as to pay for lighting Bratenahl Place’s empty apartments at night so that no one could see how many units remained vacant. Her generosity averted a possible disaster.

However, even Mrs. Britton’s stoicism had limits. On July 2, 1975, Mrs. Britton, reluctantly accepting her financial advisor’s advice, sold One Bratenahl Place to B. A. Associates Ltd., a partnership headed by Howard B. Schulman and Carl Milstein, for over five million dollars. The partnership immediately proceeded to convert the rental apartments into condominiums.

While the goal of making a fair return on time and monies invested had eluded BDC’s founders, the civic benefit met or exceeded expectations. Bratenahl Place proved to be the answer to most of the village’s prayers. The project boosted village revenue at a critical time, preventing tax increases and saving services.

Bratenahl Towers was responsible for an awakening of new interest in Bratenahl, and quiet dignity again reigned. Its population of movers and shakers rejuvenated Bratenahl’s image and demographics. Elegant old homes became in demand. The ultra-modern architecture of the high-rise towers became an instant landmark.