City of CH to hold public forum on Coventry school site
On July 27, the city of Cleveland Heights will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. at the Cleveland Heights Community Center, to enable residents to voice their opinions and comments about the development of the former Coventry school site, including the Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Park and Playground.
In the days following the public meeting, the organizations that are housed in the Coventry school building will host Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus Community Weekend, a series of events at the site, including Coventry Village Special Improvement District’s showing of the family-friendly movie "Power Rangers" at 9 p.m. on July 27, a building open house on July 28, a playground cleanup and community picnic on July 29, and the Cleveland Foundation’s “Common Ground” discussion at Ensemble Theatre, focusing on the future of the arts in Cleveland Heights, on July 30.
The public meeting is in anticipation of the release of an RFQ/RFP (Request for Qualifications/Request for Proposal) that the city will issue regarding the site’s development. The city has agreed to take into account public input prior to its release. A copy of the current draft RFQ/RFP can be found here.
When asked about the benefits of the upcoming public forum being hosted at the Coventry P.E.A.C.E Campus this weekend, Brady Dindia, board president of Artful Cleveland, an organization that has been based in the Coventry school building since July of 2016, said that this is "the community's chance to voice their opinions, ideas and concerns." She continued to say, "We at P.E.A.C.E. Campus fought hard to get the city to agree to a session like this, so we hope residents will come out and have their voices heard."
On May 10, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District announced that it would pursue the sale of the Coventry school site, which was once home to Coventry Elementary School. The district closed the school in 2007 and has since converted it into a hub for various organizations, all but one of which are not-for-profit. Current tenants of the Coventry building include Ensemble Theatre, Family Connections, Artful Cleveland, Reaching Heights, FutureHeights, Lake Erie Ink, Urban Oak School and Coventry Children’s Center.
The school district has said that it is pursuing the sale due to an estimated $1 million dollars in building repairs for the Coventry site that will be needed in the near future, including a new roof, a new wooden play structure for the park, plumbing and HVAC updates, and new windows.
Due to the impending sale of the property, the district switched Coventry building tenants to month-to-month leases at the beginning of July, rather than renew their previous yearly leases.
This sudden change to month-to-month leases resulted in an uncertain future for tenants of the building. Tenants, along with other members of the community, began to speak out during Cleveland Heights City Council meetings in June, which lead council to request that the city enter into an agreement with the tenants that would guarantee their ability to stay in the building through June 30, 2018. The city would do this through a Memorandum of Understanding, which, as of this publication date, tenants are waiting to receive.
Now that the immediate threat of losing their home base has been averted, the tenants are working with their boards of directors and other community volunteers with expertise in city planning, architecture and marketing to research the viability of developing the Coventry school site as an arts, culture and education center in the future. The group, which also is working with the volunteer group that built and maintains the playground, as well as with Heights Libraries and the Coventry Village Special Improvement District, has branded itself Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus.
Jack Valancy, a member of the Ensemble Theatre Board of Directors and spokesperson for the group, addressed Cleveland Heights City Council at its July 17 meeting. He thanked council for giving Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus “the time to evaluate our needs and develop our vision for a redeveloped Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus that would include an art center, Coventry P.E.A.C.E. playground and park, and medium-density housing compatible with the Coventry neighborhood.” He added that the group was appreciative of the city’s collaborative approach to redevelopment.
Valancy stated that his group has collected 242 surveys from Coventry neighbors to gather data on use of the playground, park and Coventry building organizations’ programs. An online survey is here: http://coventrypeacecampus.org/sign-up/take-our-survey/
Three girls, Sophia Ahmadadeen, age 11; Jana Gustin, age 11; and Chloe Gustin, age 8, also addressed council on July 17. They expressed their sadness upon learning that the site was being sold to a developer and said that they had collected 529 petitions from neighbors who want to keep the playground and park “an active community space.”
An online version of the petition is here: http://coventrypeacecampus.org/sign-up/sign-the-petition-to-save-p-e-a-c-e-park-playground/.
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.