Developer, residents at odds over Oakwood
First Interstate has a plan for the former Oakwood Club property. Citizens for Oakwood have a plan. But, so far, the City of Cleveland Heights does not.
According to Howard Thompson, the city’s new director of economic development, the city has not conducted a feasibility study or examined how the property fits into an economic development plan for the area. The city learned about the First Interstate proposal to develop the property into big-box retail and upscale housing at noon on Dec. 29, when First Interstate sent its press release to the media.
“The developer has not yet submitted the proposal to the city,” said Mayor Ed Kelley. "I'll need to learn more about the developer and see the actual proposal before I can comment. I am looking forward to a lively public discourse on this issue."
First Interstate announced that it has purchased the 62 acres of the Oakwood property that lie within South Euclid and that it has an option to purchase the remaining 92 acres that lie within Cleveland Heights. The company plans to create value-based big-box retail, such as Costco and Home Depot, develop upscale housing surrounding the former clubhouse and donate two separate parcels, 66 acres, 45 percent of the total land, to the two cities for use as public parks. No details about how the donated land would be developed into parkland or how the cities would maintain the parks were available.
Citizens for Oakwood, a Cleveland Heights-based group headed by Severance Neighborhood Organization president Fran Mentch, say that they will continue to pursue their plan to have the entire acreage become a public park. “We have a plan and our plan has not changed,” said Mentch.
Citizens for Oakwood has launched a campaign to raise $1 million. “Raising this amount,” said Mentch, “will show community support to grantmakers who might then be inclined to provide the remaining money needed. Both Metroparks and the West Creek Preservation Committee have had positive conversations with Citizens for Oakwood about holding and managing the property once it is purchased.”
The land in both cities is currently zoned residential and the developer must first have the cities rezone the land before any development could occur.
“Don't get me wrong,” said Mentch, “We need developers. I would love for him to use his ingenuity and drive to reconfigure and rebuild some of our old commercial areas. But we need Oakwood Park more.”
Deanna Bremer Fiher is the executive director of FutureHeights.