CLEVELAND, Ohio – A painter and sculptor with a studio in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood said he had an agreement to purchase the building and property that housed the now-closed Sokolowski’s University Inn, one of the restaurants the city’s most popular Poles for decades.
Giancarlo Calicchia said on Tuesday that he had signed a contract to buy the property located at 1201 University Road, and that the deal will likely be finalized in the coming weeks. He does not disclose the sale price. The Sokolowski family’s initial asking price when listing the property was $ 2.7 million, although agent Howard Hanna’s website now lists the asking price at $ 1.75 million.
Calicchia said he’s working on potential designs for the 0.4-acre site, which sits along Abbey Avenue, overlooking the Towpath Trail and the Cuyahoga River with downtown Cleveland in the background. While plans are underway, Calicchia said there will be a residential component, as well as a restaurant.
A big unknown, however, is whether the 8,700-square-foot building can be salvaged, he said. He said the building needs a lot of work.
âI’ve known the Sokolowskis forever and would like to continue this tradition architecturally, but I’m not sure,â Calicchia said. The artist also sits on the Cleveland Landmarks Commission, a city council responsible, among other things, for approving renovations and buildings on sites and in areas considered historic.
Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer have contacted a member of the Sokolowski family, as well as a listing agent representing him.
The Cleveland institution opened in 1923 as a bar. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the owners transformed it into a cafeteria-style restaurant, serving a mix of Polish and Midwestern dishes. The restaurant, with its old-fashioned vibe with a nearby pianist, won a James Beard âAmerican Classicsâ award in 2014.
The property and restaurant have remained in the Sokolowski family for three generations, last run by siblings Bernie Sokolowski, Mike Sokolowski and Mary Lou Balbier.
However, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 led the family to close their doors to restaurant customers. He tried take-out to warm up at home. The business did not last long, and the restaurant announced its complete closure a few weeks later.
The official word that he likely wouldn’t reopen came in October of that year, when the family put the property up for sale.
Calicchia, in addition to his workshop, has also worked with restaurateur Dante Boccuzzi in his restaurants in Tremont.
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