Former BOE member feels Millikin déjà vu
When I came across Jessica Cohen’s piece in the October Heights Observer [“BOE can no longer abdicate responsibility for Millikin”], I had a sense of déjà vu. Was it the late 1990s, when elements of Cleveland Heights City Council came to the CH-UH Board of Education (BOE), to do the bidding of Hebrew Academy, to get us (BOE members) to part with the property? Was it around 2010, when Jason Stein, then a library trustee (now a CH City Council member and ceremonial mayor), was a vocal advocate for the BOE to sell the property to Mosdos? Was it 2014, when CH City Council was encouraging us (BOE members) to sell the property to Mosdos, intimating that we might be denied the ability to use the property for uses other than as a school if we did not sell; and then council [was] exploring how to loan Mosdos the money to close the deal, when Mosdos couldn’t get financing?
I keep noticing a recurring theme here—that the BOE, for some reason, is apparently obligated to dispose of PUBLIC assets if someone wants them, regardless of the amount of the offer, or if the BOE wants to keep using the property. While I will readily admit that, on occasions, the BOE has not been the best trustee of the property, and has taken positions in regard to its disposition that have been confusing (typically when I was not on the BOE), this does not mean that, because a special-interest group wants it, the BOE must sell.
I thought the BOE’s position this spring, of not seeing a future with it for Millikin, was odd if the BOE did not have a location to relocate the building trades to.
While Cohen may dismiss, deride, or condemn an owner using a property in a manner that fits its needs—regurgitating the same arguments that have been used before, when interests sought the property for their own uses—Millikin as home for the school district’s trades and bulk storage is actually ideal and hard to replicate.
How do I know this? Because in 2014, when the district was looking for a new place to house these support services—a collateral outcome of renovation projects coupled with the district kowtowing to the city to sell Millikin to Mosdos—we were hard pressed to find ANY suitable spaces in Cleveland Heights, University Heights, or neighboring cities that would work. When the Mosdos deal fell through, Millikin turned out to be an excellent, centrally located site.
Cohen’s [description of] the [stables—“a graffitied dumping ground for district equipment and supplies”]—likewise seems like propaganda to stoke a fire to sell; photos of the building that I recently saw online show stable, secure and dry spaces. The exterior, when compared to the original blueprints (which I am happy to share with Ms. Cohen), shows a structure very much as it was when built, minus the cupolas, slate roof, and with windows (sadly) bricked up.
I sincerely hope the BOE will be a better steward of Millikin in the future, and improve its articulation of its utilization of the site.
At the same time, I would suggest that, if Ms. Cohen is sincere in her desire to increase the amount of taxable property in the CH-UH City School District, coupled with a drive for new housing stock in the Millikin neighborhood, perhaps she should speak with Hebrew Academy, as it seems to have a large parcel of land along Warrensville Center Road (around 80 acres), and is only using part of it for its new campus.
As she seems to be someone that CH City Council might listen to, owing to her multiple city appointments, perhaps she could advocate for the city to develop the land IT OWNS at Noble-Nela, Noble-Mayfield, Lee and Meadowbrook, and the scores of other empty lots throughout the city.
Maybe when all of these sites are developed we can circle back to the idea of finding a new use for Millikin, AFTER we find a new home for the district’s trades, at little or no cost.
Eric J. Silverman was a member of the CH-UH BOE 1994 to 2001, and 2014–17. He was a member of the Heights Libraries board 2003–09.