Top of the Hill—bottom of city council
For the last six issues of the Heights Observer, there have been two major subjects addressed in its pages—the first, the CH elected mayor and new council members; and the second, the Top of the Hill (TOH) development project at Cedar Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard. We have been relieved, after an election, of the first issue—and the right thing happened at the polls.
The second issue, not subject to election, or any other visible means of effective citizen response has, after nearly 40 meetings, and approaching 50 years, not been relieved, and portends even further absence of relief.
I painfully note that nearly every writer responding to the TOH project in these same pages has accurately noted the total absence of the criteria and policy set by CH City Council itself for the project: Its familiarity and sensitivity to the neighborhood that surrounds it, the scale and appropriateness of the building volumes, the blatant absence of a visual design that begins to express these qualities. Further, the downgrading of construction specifications, traffic problems, parking problems, the lack of immediate residents’ response to this project, all keep piling the straws higher on the citizens’ backs.
Suddenly, there is a call to obtain the same 4,000 signatures that put the elected mayor on the ballot. Just exactly how these signatures would be presented, and received, at a TOH meeting, sounds like someone holding a grenade with the pin removed. This is the effect of frustration and years of neglect.
Exactly one year ago this month, the publisher of the Heights Observer, Deanna Bremer Fisher, in her capacity as executive director of FutureHeights, Cleveland Heights’ Community Development Corporation, sent an extensive letter to CH City Council, voicing many of the concerns I listed above, along with many others. And, as of this current issue, these concerns still hang precariously in the balance.
Again, as has been voiced in the numerous opinions appearing here, CH City Council has failed to focus the TOH project into the very clear criteria set by the city itself. Seven part-time council members, who are primarily legislators, cannot maintain the now 30-year momentum to bring TOH to fruition. To wit, no single planning individual from the city has taken the TOH project under wing, thus forcing on us the distasteful proverb of “art by committee” with its obvious results. And, to boot, Cleveland Heights touts itself as “Home to the Arts”!
It is certainly cosmic coincidence that CH voters have finally approved an “elected mayor,” who would hopefully provide the robust leadership necessary to bring TOH to a bright, well-accepted and successfully timely conclusion.
But we will now have to wait another two years to have a hopefully well-chosen, and elected mayor. This would provide the spearhead TOH desperately needs, to overcome all the inertia, indecision, and negligent planning, that has plagued this sorely needed project for years in the short-term, and decades in the long-term.
Can this ill-fated project wait, or survive, another two years, before the first shovel goes into the ground?
Martin Cosentino, design/builder and managing director emeritus of Ensemble Theatre, has lived in Cleveland Heights for 49 years. He was a member of the planning committee that successfully saved the Coventry P.E.A.C.E Campus building and park, a cooperative arts center, from demolition and commercial development.