Slow down Oakwood for regional perspective


We share many concerns with opponents of the proposed Oakwood development plan. We also appreciate the need for local tax revenue that the proposed development may provide, and the opportunity to increase recreational park land in both Cleveland Heights and South Euclid. The decisions we make to develop this unique property will have long-term consequences in both communities and our East Side region. Therefore, we believe development of the former Oakwood Country Club property is an opportunity for regional cooperation and gain, rather than just what is best for Cleveland Heights or South Euclid.  

Proponents of the big-box retail development proposed for Oakwood claim more competing retail will somehow fill the languishing Cedar Center North development with large numbers of new retailers and residents. Clearly, no reasonable assessment of our retail health, at this time, supports this argument. If Wal-mart, or a similar retailer becomes the anchor store in the current Oakwood development plans, our population will continue to decline; and property values will fall as commercial vacancies grow from local merchants unable to survive competition with another big-box retailer. This is not sound regional planning, and has been loudly voiced by many local retailers and citizens opposed to the current development plans.

Supporters claim that First Interstate’s Oakwood development proposal is the best we can do under the circumstances of this private property sale; that we need to support First Interstate because they will develop the property with appropriate diligence to environmental issues and traffic congestion;that Cleveland Heights and South Euclid have the right to do whatever they determine is in the best interest of their cities.

We simply suggest slowing down the process and taking time to generate and explore options that may better serve the long-term needs of both communities and this region. 

We should explore partnerships involving all interested East Side communities and organizations, and not rush to build at Oakwood until a regional plan and partnerships are created to guide the process. What kind of commercial or residential development is best for all? How much green space should we preserve? What other options should we consider?

A regional plan would give our cities more bargaining power with developers, unite our communities, and most likely result in a plan for Oakwood development that would truly stimulate growth and enhance the marketability and vitality of our region. Contrast this potential outcome with what we have now, which is narrowly focused with substantial opposition in both cities where the debate is centered.   

Municipalities can no longer afford to be insular. We need to think broadly and ask what kind of communities we want. What mix of businesses do we need? Can multiple communities collaborate and pool resources to find the best outcome to this difficult development question?

If we take the time to ask these questions, we are confident we will find answers to maximize positive outcomes with the Oakwood opportunity, with widespread support, that will enhance and help sustain our region for many years to come.  

Lisa P. Gaynier & Michael J. Gaynier
Cleveland Heights

Lisa P. Gaynier & Michael J. Gaynier

Lisa Gaynier is the director of the Masters of Psychology Program in Diversity Management at Cleveland State University. Mike Gaynier is a business consultant and board president of the Home Repair Resource Center of Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 4, Issue 4, Posted 11:30 PM, 03.22.2011