Severance Action Group envisions a plan for redevelopment

Many of us living in Cleveland Heights have been concerned for years about the steady deterioration of the Severance Town Center, formerly known as the Severance Mall. We have watched the occupancy rate fall to well below 50%, and feared that we might lose Dave’s, Home Depot, Marshall’s and OfficeMax—the few remaining major occupants. We have seen potholes develop that are wide enough and deep enough to not only cause a pedestrian fall, but even trap and damage a vehicle. And we could not see that anything was being done to address these issues. All of this in the very heart of our city and right next to CH City Hall.

A little over two years ago, under the auspices of the FutureHeights Planning & Development Committee, we began to organize a small group of people who felt that transforming Severance was truly an existential issue for Cleveland Heights over the long term. This group, formally known as the Severance Action Group (SAG), together with many Heights citizens who support our efforts, began to think about how Severance could be transformed, and into what.

SAG looked at simply revitalizing Severance as an updated retail shopping center. But the difficulties of such centers all over the country in this age of online shopping and pandemics, coupled with the heart-breaking collapse of so many of our sister city malls on the east side of Cleveland, convinced us that retail was no longer a viable growth engine for Severance.

We came to a similar conclusion with respect to a second traditional approach to redevelopment—mixed use residential. Although less clearly problematic than retail, it is still fraught. Population decline has created an overabundance of housing of most types in our city, and on the east side of Cleveland. So, although we feel the need for a substantial housing element in the redevelopment, we do not believe it alone can drive growth.

As we thought about what we could have as a powerful draw to the Severance area, we wanted something that would grow, something that was recession resistant, and something that was consistent with Cleveland Heights. We determined that capitalizing on the wonderful MetroHealth expansion using medical higher education would be ideal.

We had a chance to share our proposal and preliminary designs with Cleveland Heights City Council at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Nov. 14. A recording of that meeting is available on the city's YouTube channel, at

Larry Nowak

Larry Nowak is chairman of SAG.
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Volume 15, Issue 12, Posted 10:59 AM, 11.22.2022