University Heights

The Cleveland Community Mikvah has cleared the first hurdle in its quest to have a mikvah facility built at 2588 S. Green Road in University Heights.

In a 5-0 vote Jan. 19, the University Heights planning commission recommended the approval of two special use permits that would allow the mikvah – a ritual pool of water used for physical and spiritual purification – to go forward. One permit would allow its use in a U-1 residential property zone, and the second would permit fencing in front of the rear foundation line of the building.

Mayor Susan Infeld, who serves as chair of the planning commission, said University Heights City Council would likely vote on the recommendation at its Feb. 6 meeting. Plans for the mikvah, located next to the Villas on the Green, also must be approved by the city’s architectural review board, which is scheduled to meet

Feb. 9.

“We’re thrilled; it went as well as we could have expected,” said Danny Gottesman, president of the Cleveland Community Mikvah board of directors. “Now we have to begin fundraising in earnest.”

Gottesman, a Beachwood resident and member of Kehillas B’nai Torah in Beachwood, said the board is not sure yet what the cost of the project will be, but he estimated it between $2 million and $2.5 million.

The 5,565-square-foot mikvah facility would be used only by women after sundown, Denver Brooker, principal of the Vocon architecture and design firm of Cleveland, told the commission. So for safety reasons, all parking would be in the front of the building, he said.

That was one of two parking variances the commission granted. The other was to allow 24 parking spaces, as proposed, instead of the 30 spaces that the city’s zoning code requires.

“The intention is to minimize the presence of parking on the street,” Brooker said. “The client wants the facility to be private.”

The commission also granted four other variances related to lot coverage, frontage and setbacks. The city’s code requires a minimum of 3 acres of lot coverage for a religious facility, but the proposed plan provides only 1.23 acres.

The site is 84 feet wide, and the building would be 22 feet high, Brooker said. It would include two immersion pools, 12 preparation rooms and a nail specialist to support the women visiting the facility.

A vacant house would be demolished to create space for the proposed mikvah.

“It’s deeper than a typical residential lot,” Gottesman said, adding the Cleveland Community Mikvah is in the process of acquiring the house.

Miriam Katz, who serves on the board of Villas on the Green, which has six condominiums in three buildings adjacent to the proposed mikvah to the south, asked why there is a need for another mikvah in that location. She noted Chabad of Cleveland’s Waxman Chabad Center, which has separate mikvahs for men and women, is across the street, just 0.2 miles north of the proposed mikvah at 2479 S. Green Road in Beachwood.

Rabbi Avrohom Adler, vice president of the Cleveland Community Mikvah board, said there has been a large influx of young Orthodox families moving into this area of University Heights and Beachwood in recent years. He also is a member of Kehillas B’nai Torah.

“They’re outgrowing the Chabad mikvah,” Gottesman said, referring to The Stanley and Esther Waxman Community Mikvah at 2479 S. Green Road in Beachwood. “We’re looking for a larger mikvah to accommodate this projected growth.”

In addition, on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, Orthodox Jews cannot drive, so there needs to be a mikvah within walking distance for those who live in this University Heights-Beachwood community, he said.

The intention is for men to continue to use the Chabad mikvah, Gottesman said.

Other mikvahs in the area include the Charlotte Goldberg Community Mikvah, on the grounds of Park Synagogue Main in Cleveland Heights, and the Heights Community Mikvah, directly behind the Yeshiva Derech HaTorah girls’ school in Cleveland Heights.

“This mikvah will be open to all Jewish women,” Gottesman said, adding Cleveland Heights residents would be invited to use it as well. “It’s a wonderful project for the community and a great use of the property for everyone.”

Adler said more than 20 Orthodox synagogues in Greater Cleveland will be represented in the Cleveland Community Mikvah, which does not have a headquarters at this time. He said he doesn’t anticipate there will be a problem raising the funds needed for the project.

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