CH-UH district puts Coventry building up for sale
The Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District announced on May 10 that it will pursue the sale of the Coventry School site. On May 22, the district announced that it will sell the property to the city of Cleveland Heights, once the city identifies a viable developer.
Formerly Coventry Elementary School, which the district closed in 2006, the property is now home to various organizations, the majority of which are not-for-profit. Tenants include Ensemble Theatre, Family Connections, Lake Erie Ink, Artful Cleveland, Reaching Heights, FutureHeights, Urban Oak School, and Coventry Children’s Center. The former school playground, now known as Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Park, also occupies the site, and numerous community events, including Coventry Village Special Improvement District’s summer movie series, take place there.
The district said it is pursuing the sale of the site because of an estimated $1 million in building repairs needed in the near future. These repairs include a new roof, projected to cost $750,000; a new wooden play structure for the park, estimated at $300,000; and additional improvements, including plumbing and HVAC updates and new windows.
The Coventry School site is not included in the district’s permanent improvement budget. “[W]e would need to take money earmarked for our current school buildings and invest those dollars in a building that does not directly impact our students,” said Scott Wortman, the district’s supervisor of communications, adding, “The district has been leasing space in the Coventry building since it closed as a public school building in 2006. By law, the district is only allowed to do this either temporarily or until it decides to reopen a school at the site.”
On May 9, district officials met with tenants of the Coventry building to notify them of the impending sale. During that meeting the district also indicated that, beginning July 1, tenants' leases would change from annual to month-to-month.
Artful Cleveland, whose owners signed a one-year lease last July, is the most recent tenant to move into the building. Directors Shannon Morris and Brady Dindia searched for a space in which to open an art studio for a long time and saw a promising opportunity in the Coventry building, as the rent was reasonable and situated them alongside other local nonprofits.
Morris and Dindia converted the empty second floor of the building into an 18-room art studio over a year ago. Since then, they have been offering studio space at an affordable price to local artists. Morris said simply, “Our blood, sweat and tears are in there.”
Artful's owners were surprised by the news. “It came as a shock,” Dindia said, adding that Artful had planned to host classes in September. They feel now that those and other future plans are uncertain.
Similarly, Celeste Consentino, Ensemble Theatre's executive artistic director, said that the change to a month-to-month lease came as a surprise. Ensemble Theatre, which converted the school building’s gymnasium into a 99-seat theater, operated on a yearly lease for the last six years. A theater that is dedicated to providing non-traditional casting and to offering a platform for contemporary issues, Ensemble was the first tenant to move into the Coventry building, in 2011.
“We are lucky to have an active board and the support of the community and look to a tenable agreement that would bring the best possible results for all organizations involved. We have served the Cleveland Heights community for the past four decades and look forward to many more to come,” Cosentino said.
In a statement, CH-UH City School District Superintendent Talisa Dixon summed up the district’s aims: “We wanted to be proactive with our tenants, many of which are valued district partners, and give them advance notice of our intentions. At the end of the day, we will ensure that the site transitions into uses that are beneficial to the surrounding neighborhood and the Cleveland Heights community.”
Connor O'Brien is a senior majoring in communication and minoring in English at John Carroll University. He is currently an intern for the Heights Observer.