It's time to move on Millikin
On Sept. 3, the CH-UH Board of Education (BOE) voted to reject further discussion of proposals [for Millikin], brought to them by unanimous vote of Cleveland Heights City Council, [that were] in response to years of citizens seeking progress at the Millikin site and the desire to increase [tax] revenue. [Many] residents are appalled. How is refusing to explore [new] revenue possibilities a good idea, while [the BOE has proposed] levying residents for more revenue? The audit the BOE refused to undertake might have shown great possibilities could come from developing the Millikin property. Council [members], like many districtwide, believe it holds much promise.
With a declining population, the district will need to close more buildings. Millikin should be a warning to every neighborhood in the district: Coming soon to your neighborhood! For years the area endured the drug and gun deals that occur on neglected, abandoned properties. The building sits underutilized as a storage facility, with the ramshackle stables sporting graffiti.
The building is a loss to the district, costing tens of thousands [of dollars] a year to maintain. Off-loading it off-loads that cost. Multiply that savings over years.
No developer is going to buy that land when it means taking on the cost of tearing down the asbestos-laden building. Offers haven't exactly been pouring in. Hence CH council, responding to its citizens, offered a deal that would see much needed, awaited and desired development. Without the oft-used procedure of the $1 sale price, no one will even look at developing it, and Millikin remains a financial drain; unrealized potential. Fewer students require fewer buildings. A good disposition should be a priority. The Millikin neighborhood has been waiting for action for nearly 15 years. Imagine if it had been developed right away and [had been generating] funds for years already!
Without abatements, we lose. Not the developer. He'll simply find another place to develop and make his money where he's wanted. Abatements are SOP [standard operating procedure] for attracting projects. This is the standard path to seeing future revenue. There are multiple [sources] of potential income to be explored. Some with short-term benefit, others with larger benefit long term. Declining to explore them follows a pattern. There are ample examples where the school district might have seen income, but turned that down (such as Gearity, Wiley and Coventry).
To be fair, after many years of nothing, the BOE returned a small playground—far less than the attraction neighborhood kids enjoyed when Millikin was open. Now, the adjoining backyard looks like more fun. A neighborhood group should be commended for making the best of the [playground] with paint and marigolds. It wouldn’t present a challenge to move [it] in order to maintain a small playground in the new housing development. That's an easy lift.
The BOE needs to educate. The Millikin land remains tax abated for as long as it doesn't sell—already 15 years! Without the deal, we have no funds now, none in the future, and continue to lose money on maintenance. Move forward and possibilities exist, but history shows no other interest will be forthcoming. Turn this down, we get nothing. Go forward and the possibilities tally in the millions. It's time to bring in much-needed revenue for CH-UH public schools from the Millikin land. Put it back on the table.
Susan Efroymson is active in the neighborhood and community, serving on CH's Refuse and Recycling Task Force and the CEM Transition Subcommittee. She was a Millikin parent and still lives just around the corner from the former school.