TOH critics not to blame for delay
After sitting through the final CH City Council meeting on the topic of Top of the Hill (TOH), on Feb. 18, I found it unfortunate that critics of the project were being blamed for how long it has taken for TOH to happen.
Was it critics who selected a prominent local developer with a history of quality projects, and then could not come to an agreement with the developer? No, that was the city of Cleveland Heights. Was it critics who orchestrated a Potemkin Village of "public engagement,” and then ignored that input? No, it was the city. Was it critics who crafted a poor design and submitted incomplete drawings to the Architectural Board of Review (ABR), drawing out the process? No, it was the developer. Was it critics who failed to conduct any sort of market survey, showing how this project will be a catalyst for the entire city, and post all relevant material on the city’s website? No, it was the city. Was it critics who failed to develop this site over the last 25 years and—by the way—are now on their third (or is it fourth?) developer at Lee and Meadowbrook? No, it was the city.
What is most disappointing about TOH is not the bland design, the flawed massing, the lack of three-bedroom units, or even the public subsidies. It is the lost opportunity, as neither the city nor the developer saw value in the geometry, topography, and uniqueness of the site. Instead of buildings that would take advantage of the location and create landmark structures, we will be receiving the developer’s standard design shoehorned into the site with the bare minimum in alterations needed to get the support of two members of the ABR.
If the city had not adopted an “us versus them” Robert Moses approach to this project, if it had been transparent and responsive in place of opaque and combative, if the developer had been willing to move the tall portion of the project to Euclid Heights Boulevard, and had used a design with actual details instead of homages and inferences, I believe support for the project would have expanded beyond those with an economic or ideological interest, coupled with those tired of debate. With the time, money and effort expended on this project, coupled with the uniqueness and location of the site, I feel we should have received something better than “meh.”
I hope that this project will be as “catalytic” as supporters believe it to be for the rest of Cleveland Heights, but after scouring the city’s website, and making repeated requests for documentation to support this premise, this appears to be an act of faith instead of one of data.
With all of the things wrong with TOH, of which there are many, I want it to succeed. More importantly, I want to see CH City Council and its staff work as hard for Noble-Nela, Noble-Mayfield and South Taylor as they have for TOH.
Cleveland Heights resident Eric J. Silverman is a former member of the CH-UH school board (1994–2001, and 2014–18), and the Heights Libraries board (2003–09).