Empty nesters should flock to TOH

I’m pleased to learn that Cleveland Heights City Council, by a 6-1 vote, approved [what I understand to be] the proposed $84-million, 10-story Top of the Hill (TOH) project with 275 market-rate luxury apartments.

When I moved to Cleveland Heights in 1966, I lived near an eight-story brick building facing Cedar Road west of Fairmount Boulevard, a former apartment house that served as Doctors’ Hospital. Someone, I don’t recall who, startled me by saying, “Don’t go to that hospital. It is a bad hospital!”

Eventually Doctors' Hospital moved to Mayfield Heights, and now is Hillcrest Hospital, part of the Cleveland Clinic. From what I can tell, it is a good hospital. The former hospital site, however, has been a parking lot ever since.

Several proposals were made for this site over many decades. It’s not easy trying to balance how such a property is put to the highest and best use for all of Cleveland Heights and its taxpayers—while not unduly infringing on nearby neighbors. Some people will never be happy.

In 1998, as an activist on a public policy issue representing the Ohio Sierra Club, I presented a slide show, “Suburban Sprawl is at Your Expense,” funded by the George Gund Foundation. A tenet [of it] was making use of under-utilized properties in the city to bring in more tax dollars. I made a presentation at the Fairmount Presbyterian Church before an audience of Cleveland Heights citizens. Two women argued that I was advocating wrecking the area with new development. I was flummoxed. I felt better when then Cleveland Heights Mayor Edward Kelley met me in his office and offered support to continue. Unfortunately this project did not continue.

Later, about 2002, still an activist, I attended meetings between members of the Hessler Neighborhood Association (HNA) and University Circle Incorporated (UCI) over a proposed large residential and commercial project along Euclid Avenue at Ford Drive, the site of which was then a gravel parking lot known as “The Beach.” Two ladies from HNA were in attendance. I watched them vocally work over UCI’s presenters as with verbal howitzers. I recalled my tormenters at the church. Except, this time I was on the side of the protesters.

Because the project site abutted Hessler properties, neighbors had a right to be heard in the design of the project that finally became Uptown. While some Hessler supporters are not happy with what Uptown became, I think it did a good job not placing a tall building directly against neighboring smaller-scale residential properties.

Mostly three-floor apartment houses abut the TOH project site. Several four- and five-floor apartment houses are nearby, and eight-story Waldorf Towers is 1,200 feet north of TOH. The planned 10-story TOH apartment house is about 200 feet from the nearest two- to three-story residences, to the south across wide Cedar Road.

TOH is designed to serve “empty nesters” among others. I’ve long known the Spencer family who lived in a single-family home on E. Monmouth Road in Cleveland Heights. After a few decades, with their three children grown up and gone, Pete and Heidi Spencer wanted to downsize from their, so to speak, “empty nest.” They first looked in Cleveland Heights and found nothing. To stay relatively close to their former home, they moved to a suite in a big apartment house in Shaker Square, paying taxes to Shaker Heights and Shaker schools.

My hope is that TOH provides a place for affluent Cleveland Heights residents to stay in Cleveland Heights, and keep their tax payments here, too.

Lee Batdorff

Lee Batdorff has been a Cleveland Heights resident since 1966.

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Volume 13, Issue 1, Posted 9:46 AM, 01.03.2020