Concerns about Top of the Hill

While the design and massing for Top of the Hill (TOH) are extremely disappointing, what irks me to no end is the math behind the project and the answers I receive from City Hall.

What no one has been able to explain to me is why—with land that is ostensibly “free” at the most developable site in the city, with a parking structure that makes the project viable, paid for with taxes that would otherwise go to the public schools—the developer is unable to secure financing and the city is covering a funding “gap.”

No one at City Hall is able to tell me why there is a “gap,” why the city is covering $1.85 million of this “gap,” or what $1.85 million in public money is paying for. As the city does not have $1.85 million sitting around, it is going to borrow this money, which means the cost will be around $2 million with interest.

Based on the ONE-PAGE economic impact study that projects revenue from this project, it will take around 10 years for Cleveland Heights to recoup the $2 million in PUBLIC money that is being spent to develop TOH.

If the rationale to commit $2 million in public money for 10 years is as a catalyst for economic development, how will it create demand for the Cedar-Fairmount neighborhood? Where is the standalone report or addendum to the city’s Master Plan that articulates future infill projects?

There is none, at least none I was allowed to see, despite making a direct request for these materials from City Hall.

Speaking of reports, when I ask for any type of analysis comparing TOH to comparable projects in Cleveland Heights, neighboring communities, downtown Cleveland, or the plethora of infill projects in an arc from Tremont to Lakewood—which are cropping up like mushrooms after the rain—I am told my request is not specific enough.

Really? I didn’t realize City Hall was overflowing with so many market feasibility studies of TOH from the last five years that I had to specify which one. Is City Hall like the warehouse at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” filled with boxes and boxes of reports, drawings and analyses?

More likely, no study was conducted, OR the results were not flattering.

I am curious as to the demand only for 1- and 2-bedroom units geared for millennials at TOH, when that market appears to desire a higher-density, “grittier” urban locale.

I recall, during discussions on the city’s Master Planning Committee, a need for units for current Cleveland Heights residents downsizing, where a 3-bedroom unit on one floor would be compelling. There are no 3-bedroom units planned for TOH.

At the same time, the current massing for TOH using a double-loaded corridor on the ten-story “apex” building means that for 30 units, the first five floors on the north side of the building, their view will be of a parking lot and the unadorned rear brick wall of the Buckingham Building. Where is the demand for this?

The city’s approach to TOH appears to be get on board the train, as it has left the station and any critics or suggestions will be ignored and crushed under the weight of momentum.

It increasingly feels that City Hall waited too long to develop TOH after the Great Recession, was unable to cut a deal with a local developer with a history of attractive, successful infill projects in our region, and now feels compelled to push forward with ANYTHING from council’s second choice, so council members can say “progress” even if they have to use $2 million in PUBLIC money for a private, for-profit development in the city’s wealthiest and least diverse neighborhood.

Eric Silverman

Eric J. Silverman, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a member of the CH-UH Board of Education 1994–2001 and 2014–2018, and a member of Heights Libraries Board of Directors, 2003–2009.

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Volume 12, Issue 5, Posted 10:52 AM, 05.02.2019