Coventry property will transfer to Heights Libraries
The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education (BOE) and the CH-UH Public Library System (Heights Libraries) have reached an agreement on the future of the former Coventry school property. On Feb. 5, the library board voted to accept from the school district the six-acre property, including the school building, playground and greenspace; on Feb. 20 the school board voted to transfer the property to Heights Libraries for $1. The transaction will close on March 31.
In 2017, upon learning of the school district’s desire to sell the property, current tenants of the building formed Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus and presented a unified vision for an arts and educational center. The library’s Coventry branch abuts the property at the corner of Coventry Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard, and provides the only free parking for the branch.
Ohio Revised Code allows school districts to transfer property to libraries in their communities. While the library is exploring the use of some of the space in the former school building for its own programs, it is also interested in maintaining the public status of the land, which Grant Deming had donated in 1917 for “public, educational use.”
At a special meeting on Feb. 5, James Roosa, library board member, introduced a resolution authorizing the library to execute an agreement to purchase the property and negotiate and sign leases with the tenants. The motion passed unanimously.
Current tenants of the Coventry building have signed Letters of Interest (LOI) to negotiate leases with the library.
Coventry building tenants Brady Dindia, president of the Artful Board of Directors, and Jack Valancy, Ensemble Theatre board member, expressed their gratitude and presented the LOIs and peace symbol cookies to the library on behalf of Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus member organizations. Erick Kauffman, president of Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Park, the nonprofit that built and maintains the Coventry playground, said he was looking forward to working with the library as it seeks to rebuild and refresh the playground and park.
Another tenant, Amy Rosenbluth, director of Lake Erie Ink (LEI), expressed her appreciation to the library, stating that it was Heights Libraries Director Nancy Levin who, when she was teen services librarian, had partnered with Rosenbluth's organization to bring about the first teen poetry slam. She also noted that the library had given LEI its first home, at its Lee Road branch, before it was able to secure office space of its own.
Several community members spoke in favor of the transfer, saying that the arts center will attract young families and add to the vitality of the neighborhood. Longtime Heights resident Ray Lesser, who owns the Funny Times along with his wife, Sue Wolpert, commended the library’s action, saying that the library board had the vision to “reimagine what a library can be in the 21st century.”
Heights resident Charles Drake asked if the library board was prepared to cover the costs of operating the building, and Regina Kupecky expressed concern about the condition of the building. Library Board President Abby Botnick replied that the board had done its due diligence and was prepared to address the issues. Levin stated that, although the roof of the building had been known to leak and would need to be fixed, the concrete block and steel structure was both safe and sound. She added that “the playground was a priority.”
Deanna Bremer Fisher
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.