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Former Fur Vault Could House Pets

Property owner asks P&Z Commission to allow former fur vault to be occupied by Pet Lodge USA

Owners of a building in Commerce Park specially designed to be a fur vault have only found one tenant who’s interested in renting the unusual space.

And, ironically, they want to run a pet kennel there.

“We’re still in the fur business,” said building owner Ken Sacks. “It’s just a different kind of fur.”

Dan Kryzanowski, owner of Pet Lodge USA, told the Planning and Zoning Commission last week that the building is perfect for his headquarters and training facility, and he wants to sign a 10-year lease.

The city's zoning does not allow pet kennels in this district, and the Commission has been asked to approve a use variance for Pet Lodge or to rule that the use fits with the property’s current zoning.

Sheldon Berns, Sacks’ legal counsel, argued that the building’s unusual design poses problems for most uses: Sacks built the building to lease to Weiss Furs to store the furs Weiss sold in the  and keep insurance costs down. The 13,000 square-foot building has only 3,000 square feet of office space, 15 parking spaces and no elevator.

Three vaults make up the first floor, and the second floor is office space that looks down on the vaults.

Its loading dock is small – built for a van, not trucks – and the exterior walls are 16 inches thick, made with poured concrete without windows.

No one has shown real interest in renting it since the fur company moved out of the space because of dwindling sales three years ago.

But these characteristics make for a perfect location for Pet Lodge, said Kryzanowski: the thick walls will insulate barking, and a Pet Lodge does not need much parking of office space. The offices looking down on the vaults make it great for training, he added – the individual “pet villas” would be clearly visible from above.

Plus, the vicinity to Interstate 271, busy corridors, hotels and the airport make it convenient for customers and employees from out of the area who would train there.

“It’s so cool for the flagship of Pet Lodge USA to be there, and I’ll probably never find another building like it,” said Kryzanowski.

If the commission allows this use, said City Planner George Smerigan, it could set a precedent for other variance requests.

He added that one condition of being granted a use variance is that the property owner must prove hardship that they have not created — and building a fur vault is creating hardship, he said.

“Any time you design a building for a specific purpose, when that purpose ends, you have a problem,” said Smerigan. But, he added, “I’m sympathetic that he’s struggling with it.”

Planning and Zoning voted to place the proposal on pending legislation untill members could discuss it more in their next work session. They could vote on it at their next meeting Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. in

Launched in 2002, Pet Lodge USA now has four franchises in Northeast Ohio – in , Boardman, Hubbard and Howland Township – and Kryzanowski said that plans are in the works to open locations across the country.

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