Consider risks of the Top of the Hill Project
On Oct. 27, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the upcoming closing of Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern. It's been a rocky couple of decades for "the Euc," but Happy Dog co-owner Sean Watterson, quoted in the Plain Dealer, summed up the current situation in University Circle by saying, "The area changed pretty quickly with building going up rather than through organic growth." [The Euclid Tavern is owned by University Circle Inc.]
This could serve as a cautionary tale for the Heights' Top of the Hill Project. Could any of our organically grown treasures, such as Appletree Books, Luna, or The Fairmount, suffer because of too much building, too fast?
Please look at and study the current architectural renderings of the project. What were once proposed to be six-story buildings are now nine stories tall, creating a "wow" (some could say, "yikes!") factor when approaching the Heights. What was once promised to bring green space amid all the construction is now offering a couple of 10-by-10 plots. When asked publicly if all proposed apartments would be "luxury priced," or if any might be "affordable," our CH Director of Economic Development admitted, "no." This is not a project designed for average Cleveland Heights citizens.
In the center of the project is a 550-car parking garage. While Cleveland Heights spent decades retrofitting parking spaces where none were originally designed (e.g., our older churches offered no parking; housing has needed to be razed in order to provide it in many instances), I wonder if we might spend upcoming decades retrofitting old, underused parking structures into something more practical due to the expansion of ride-sharing options such as Uber and Lyft, and people beginning to appreciate real, walkable hospitality in their communities.
Full disclosure: I am a 33-year resident of the Buckingham Condominium, the four-story building currently at the top of Cedar Hill. We stand to be engulfed in a morass of concrete and beams as this project moves forward. But aside from our own sense of impending isolation as a result of this project, I ask a few questions as you peruse the proposal. When you look at it, does it say "Cedar Fairmount" to you? Does it take what's best about this beloved neighborhood and enhance it? Does the current traffic flow in our community look to improve with its addition to our city?
Amid all the growth and construction in University Circle surrounding "the Euc," there have been missteps. The Corner Alley recently closed its doors. Accent, Crop Kitchen and Dynomite suffered the same fate. What seems to be working there is an infusion of fast-casual chain restaurants. I'm sure that many people studied what the economy could support as they proposed such fast growth; in perhaps too many instances they were wrong.
Before the Top of the Hill Project moves forward, I hope that many Heights residents' eyes are on what's being proposed. We don't need empty shells that potentially blight a neighborhood that for many years has served us so well.
Don King served as pastor of Peace Lutheran Church. He has been a resident of Cleveland Heights since 1985, and has served congregations, and been active in the local interfaith community, since 1999.