Forum to address the future of Severance

FutureHeights will host a forum on the future of Severance Town Center—Reimagining Severance—on Oct. 21. The focus of the meeting will be on the future of the shopping center located within Severance Circle, but its relationship with surrounding properties and neighborhoods will also be considered. The forum will take place at 7 p.m. at the Cleveland Heights Community Center, 1 Monticello Blvd.

At the event, presentations on the history of Severance and the current status of the foreclosure proceedings on the retail center will provide context for the discussion, and information regarding how other communities have rethought and, in some cases, redeveloped or partially redeveloped troubled properties like Severance will be provided.

At the June 15 meeting of the Cleveland Heights City Council, Mayor Dennis Wilcox noted that the city has been working closely with the court-appointed receiver for the center toward maintaining the value of Severance and finding solutions for its problems. “One of the things that we discovered is that the note and mortgage on the center have restrictions on the type of business that can go in there—very structured restrictions on the type of retail business that can go in there,” said Wilcox. “So, through the foreclosure process, which is going on now, that note and mortgage will be sold, and it will allow a new buyer to maybe try and do some new things or some things that don’t fit into Severance right now.”

Wilcox went on to state that the city, in cooperation with the receiver, is working to expedite the process of getting new ownership for Severance, which would then allow for a viable plan for the center’s future. A foreclosure sale of the note owed by Severance's current owner is expected in September or October. That sale would most likely be an interim step in the process of finding a long-term owner for the property.

Planning for the redevelopment of the 161-acre John L. Severance estate began in 1953, and Severance Mall, Ohio’s first automobile-era enclosed shopping center, opened there in 1963. The center went through many changes and adjustments before being mostly replaced with the current outward-facing strip center in 2000.

In recent years, the center has lost several key tenants for various reasons, among them Borders, Walmart, Regal Cinemas and an IHOP restaurant, all of which had come to Severance at the time of its most recent reconfiguration or soon thereafter. Notably, many viable retailers remain, including a Home Depot, a Dave’s Market, some long-term tenants and a few recently opened stores. Retail uses are not permitted in Severance outside of Severance Circle, a public street that surrounds the shopping center. This policy has provided protection against the blight that has often been seen to spread well beyond the boundaries of other troubled shopping centers.

Those attending the Reimagining Severance forum will have an opportunity to express their concerns and share their thoughts about how they would like to see the area improved. The purpose of the event will be to start a discussion. Decisions on the future of Severance, which will require deliberation and action on the part of private property owners, the City of Cleveland Heights and other interested parties, are most likely a few years off.

For updates on the forum, visit or the organization’s Facebook page.

Vince Reddy

Vince Reddy is a FutureHeights board member and an 18-year resident of Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 8, Issue 8, Posted 4:12 PM, 07.31.2015