Reviving Millikin as a community asset should be a CH-UH district priority
At its Jan. 5 meeting, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education voted 3-2 against selling the Millikin Elementary School property at public auction. The question is, why?
In March 2007, the school board placed the Millikin property up for public auction. It received proposals from four parties. The highest cash offer was Mosdos Ohr Hatorah, a Jewish school. Mosdos planned on relocating from its current building on Warrensville Center Road. However, the board rejected all bids because its members felt they could receive “fair market value” by postponing the sale.
“Fair market value” is defined as what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller – not what a seller wishes to be paid. It has been three years since the public auction. No willing buyers have appeared in that time. However, in the three years since the board rejected the offers for Millikin, the school building has seen a rapid structural decline. It has been vandalized and the once-beautiful playground is desolate. The longer the district holds on to this property, the less valuable it becomes.
Moreover, the board has shown a willingness to accept offers outside “fair market value,” as seen in the case of the former Coventry Elementary School.
Coventry will be the new home of the Music Settlement in the near future. During the community meetings on the school, it was clear that there were no parties interested in purchasing the school at “fair market value.” Therefore, the board adapted criteria to the needs of the community with the underlining principle that the district would not have to subsidize the facility. The board wanted an institution that would “fit” into the Coventry area and improve the neighborhood. The approach taken to repurposing the Coventry should be applied equally to the Millikin school.
Until Millikin closed in 2006, it was a community asset. Many of the surrounding residents' children attended the school, used the playground and/or attended the Heights Parent Center, which was located inside Millikin.
Millikin should return to full use as a school. The CH-UH Board of Education should either place the property up for public auction or begin negotiations on a long-term lease with an educational institution similar to the agreement previously considered for The Music Settlement to use Coventry. Whatever the board chooses, it needs to make a priority of returning the Millikin to its role as a community asset.
Jason Stein serves on the board of trustees for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, and is a member of the Cleveland Heights Citizens Advisory Committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org