A modest proposal to participate in CH redevelopment
After presenting many rejected concerns about Top of the Hill (TOH) [to the city], I realize that it’s time to stop resisting and join the city in its redevelopment efforts. I’m offering the city a proposal: instead of selling my 100-year-old house, I will stay in Cleveland Heights and convert it and the house next door into a high-density, mixed-use residential property including a restaurant. In return, I expect the city to grant me the same financial and other assistance it gave to the Indiana-based developers for TOH.
My credentials are that I’ve lived in my house for 40 years, restored the interior to its original condition and added amenities, including a second-floor enclosed porch and a formal garden. I have successfully developed and sold property in Novelty, Ohio and Sedona, Ariz. Unlike the TOH developers, I know that the main road is called Cedar Road, not Cedar Street.
Here are the specifics of my proposal: First, I'll buy the property next door and sell it to the city, which will then convert it and my house into a tax increment financing (TIF) overlay district (to guarantee the health, safety and well-being of my neighbors). The city will then lease the property to me for $1/year for 30 years. The city will also help me get a low-interest TIF loan from the Port Authority, which will also exempt me from sales tax on construction materials.
Second, the city must restructure my property taxes, which should be at least $100,000/year after construction is complete. I’m not asking for tax abatement. I will pay $100,000 each year. The city will rebate $75,000 to me after taking $25,000 for the schools. I’ll use the rebated money to pay off my loans and put any leftover funds into my pocket. I’ll agree to use that extra money for a public good, like putting new curbs along the neighboring streets. But I doubt the city can force me to do anything once I’ve booked the money.
Third, I’ll publicly promise to use $2 million of my own money, although I plan to contribute only about $750,000. But I expect the city to use the $2 million pledge in all public presentations so residents will believe in my financial dedication to the project. Also, I will need a bridge loan to secure construction financing. I expect the city to give me enough cash to convince lenders that I am a good credit risk. If the city doesn’t have that money, I expect it to get it somewhere, even if the city must issue debt bonds.
Fourth, I will need a zoning variance so that I can add parking spaces for my new, high-income tenants. I will own the parking area and collect all parking fees at the completion of construction. There should be no concern about the lost parking revenue because the city will get payroll taxes from my new employees (chef, housekeepers, handyman and yard workers) and my new tenants.
Finally, design-wise I will promise to leave some elements of my house’s original Georgian design visible, but I will not reconstruct another Georgian building. Instead I will integrate the two properties using a respectful and tasteful design that emphasizes CH’s new look of visually imposing, glass-dominated structures. I expect the city to publicly reject any criticism directed toward me about the design because it will certainly be emotionally based, totally unenlightened, and [indicative of] backward thinking.
I hope CH City Council will consider an emergency ordinance authorizing a memorandum of understanding with me so that I can assume my role in the reimagining of Cleveland Heights.
(This is a condensation of a presentation I made at the last CH City Council meeting. It is obviously satire, but it is serious in that it very simply outlines all of the special considerations the commercial developer was given for the TOH project.)
Joan Mallick is a 48-year resident of Cleveland Heights. For 40 years, she has lived in a 100-year-old brick Georgian, which she and her husband restored. She cannot imagine living anywhere else, but is concerned about the direction the city is going in, in terms of viable economic development.