Music Settlement halts plan, but talks continue

One year ago, in September 2009, The Music Settlement, based in University Circle, reached an agreement with the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District to transform the former Coventry Elementary School into a state-of-the-art early childhood center. After conducting a comprehensive feasibility study, however, The Music Settlement now believes that the campaign goal of raising $16-19 million would be difficult to achieve.

"The Music Settlement’s board and administration are, of course, disappointed about the results of the study," said Charles D. Lawrence, president and CEO of The Music Settlement. "But after careful consideration, we believe moving forward with our original plans in such an uncertain economy would be detrimental."

Coventry residents are also disappointed. Mark Majewski, whose home abuts the property, said there have been loud parties near the playground at the back of the building and reported that his daughter was confronted by a man with a gun near the school. "I’m hopeful that the school district and the city will continue to be aggressive to find a new use for the property," Majewski stated.

Although unaware of any recent crime on the property, Stephen Shergalis, director of business services for the school district, stated that all security systems are being maintained and an off-duty Cleveland Heights police officer was hired to patrol the site at night.

Majewski added that, despite the disturbances, the school district has done a good job in maintaining the building, which has been vacant since June 2007. "I compliment the school district for making the building look nice. It does not look derelict."

Superintendant Douglas Heuer said that he and the school district "remain committed to finding the best use for the Coventry property, as soon as it’s possible to do so" and added that, "whatever the answer, the people of our community-and especially that neighborhood-should know that finding the right use for the Coventry property is our highest priority."

The school district is currently in discussions with The Music Settlement and The Ensemble Theatre regarding the possibility of leasing a portion of the building, and plans to contact other arts organizations they believe might be a good fit.

Lawrence stated that the board’s decision will not affect future collaborations. "We have a great relationship with the CH-UH School District, and we are committed to the school system and to the community. This is not the end of opportunity."

Jessica Kahn is a PR professional who loves crossword puzzles, crepes and Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 3, Issue 9, Posted 9:16 PM, 08.25.2010