Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus vision closer to reality after recent developments
The members of the Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus team are pleased to report that all relevant parties are engaged in active discussions over the immediate future of the Coventry site and our proposal to build on its success as a center for arts, education and community gatherings.
On Nov. 20, the Heights Libraries Board of Trustees authorized Executive Director Nancy Levin to enter into negotiations with the P.E.A.C.E. Campus group about partnering to take possession of the Coventry property from the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District. School districts are limited by law in how they can dispose of unused buildings and land; cities and libraries are two entities to which districts can transfer ownership. But this is not just a legal maneuver—the library’s formal involvement is a welcome and promising development.
The trustees’ vote followed a Nov. 6 meeting between P.E.A.C.E. Campus representatives and members of Cleveland Heights City Council. The city had been planning to take control of the property and issue a request for qualifications/request for proposals (RFQ/RFP) to private developers for redevelopment plans, until the current Coventry tenants put forth the campus proposal. At the meeting, the campus team proposed that the city forgo the RFQ/RFP process, extend the tenants’ leases through June 2019, and begin working on a plan to transfer the property to tenant control. (At present, we have only verbal commitments to remain through June 2018.)
This would allow the school district and the city to move quickly on a plan with broad and longstanding community support. The idea to turn the former Coventry school into an arts center can be traced back to an extensive reuse study in 2008. Proceeding with an RFP would take much longer and would not ensure the future of the arts center and playground.
On Nov. 21, Ron Register, president of the CH-UH Board of Education; Dr. Talisa Dixon, superintendent of Heights schools; and Scott Gainer, school district CFO, sat down with campus representatives for a presentation and discussion. The meeting was productive; Register and Dixon took notes and asked several pertinent questions. The following week, Register and another BOE member met with CH City Council in executive session to discuss an agreement on a transfer of the property. We have not yet learned any specifics from that conversation.
The CH-UH Board of Education met in executive session on Nov. 28. Afterward, a school district spokesman told Cleveland.com that there are “outstanding issues” to review with the city, but added, “Hopefully these ongoing discussions of late will be productive in coming up with a resolution for a path forward.”
In light of these developments, the Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus team is encouraged. All key stakeholders have been briefed on our redevelopment vision, are talking to each other, and seem committed to announcing a plan before the end of the year. We are grateful to them, and to the many residents who have remained engaged in this issue since the school district announced plans to sell the building in May. The holiday season is a time to look back at accomplishments, and forward to possibilities, and we hope you are as excited as we are about how far we’ve come together, and how much farther we could go.
The Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus teams comprises Ensemble Theatre, Lake Erie Ink, Family Connections, FutureHeights, Reaching Heights, ARTFUL and Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Inc., the organization that built and maintains the playground. The campus vision includes an improved and welcoming arts, culture and education center; a revitalized playground; extensive landscaping of the green space; additional parking for the arts center and nearby Coventry Village Library; and, possibly, village-style private housing.
More information—including events at or near the campus through the holiday season—is available at www.coventrypeacecampus.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates.
Frank Lewis is a Coventry neighborhood resident and Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus volunteer.