10 Junes: Looking back on a decade of the Heights Observer
In June 2008, the nation was in the worst economic downturn since 1929, and the lead story in the third issue of the Heights Observer told about a group of residents who had responded to deep budget cuts by taking on the cost and labor to maintain hanging baskets and planters that decorated the Cedar-Fairmount gateway each summer. They weren’t alone in considering first impressions: A letter to the editor suggested using the long-vacant “Top of the Hill” parcel at Cedar Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard as a public gathering space, anchored by a well-lit all-weather fountain.
The same issue carried a report headlined "Coventry committee to board of education: Rent or raze." Coventry Elementary School had been shuttered a year earlier, and the CH-UH school board was trying to decide what to do with it. Exactly three years later—June 2011—under the headline "Planting seeds to grow new uses for Coventry School," the school district reported that nonprofits Ensemble Theatre and Family Connections had leased space in the building—where both remain today.
In June 2009, Melt Bar & Grilled announced it would open its second location (now one of 13 stretched across Ohio) at the corner of Cedar and Taylor roads.
A year later, McDonald’s made news with plans to build a new restaurant on Warrensville Center Road in University Heights—ending a contentious effort by a different developer to use the site for a drive-through car wash.
After 66 years on Lee Road, Seitz-Agin Hardware closed in June 2011; the space was reoccupied six months later by The Wine Spot. At the same time, the CH-UH school board kicked off a massive overhaul of district school buildings with a “listening session” that only drew 16 members of the community. Getting more attention was the board’s decision to reject a bid by Mosdos Ohr Hatorah, an orthodox Jewish day school, to use the empty Millikin Elementary School .
By the following spring, Gearity Professional Development (elementary) School was on the chopping block as part of the CH-UH schools emerging facilities overhaul, but the June 2012 issue reported on an effort by University Heights residents that ultimately saved it. Meanwhile, Mosdos Ohr Hatorah was still hoping to buy or lease Millikin Elementary School in a back-and-forth process that never came to fruition.
The lead story in June 2013 was an update that 18 CH households had been granted licenses to keep backyard chickens under a law approved in 2012. Meanwhile, the CH-UH school board was preparing to place a $134.8 million bond issue on the November ballot. Its passage cleared the way to rebuild Heights High.
A column in the June 2014 issue reported that more than 150 residents of Cleveland Heights’ North End squeezed into the Cleveland Heights Police Academy (the old fire station at Noble Road and Monticello Boulevard) to air grievances over the city’s “beleaguered” North End. And the CH-UH Public Library System had arranged a series of LGBTQ-themed programs to celebrate Cleveland’s hosting of the International Gay Games.
June 2015 brought groundbreaking on the two-year reconstruction of Heights High. Motorcars Honda was named Green Energy Ohio’s Business of the Year for its $6 million renovation that included a 335 kilowatt solar canopy.
The June 2016 issue carried a story about the final internment ceremony at Lake View Cemetery for legendary disc jockey Alan Freed. The same issue noted the 100th anniversary of the CH-UH Public Library System, and Cleveland Heights’ request for proposals to develop the four-acre Top of the Hill site.
A year later, the June 2017 issue reported the city’s signing of a development agreement for that site with an Indianapolis firm, after efforts with a different developer had failed. And the former Coventry Elementary School was still making news. With the building finally fully occupied by nonprofit community organizations (including Observer publisher FutureHeights), the school board decided it was the right moment to sell it. Ten months later, the 101-year-old CH-UH library took ownership of the property, now formally named Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus.
Cleveland Heights resident Bob Rosenbaum is co-chair of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee, and is responsible for its advertising sales and market development.