Where is the retail at Top of the Hill?

Fully one year into the opening of The Ascent at the Top of the Hill, there remains no retail establishment that has moved into the first floors of the complex.

From 2016 through its completion in 2023, community meetings were held, questions answered, and promises made that led the community to believe that this project would be a benefit for all of Cleveland Heights. "Density is Good" became an unspoken mantra, while neighbors were assured that no parking problems would ensue, and we could all take delight in the new shops and restaurants that would arrive. Plus, the extra taxes from those services and employees would provide a civic boost.

One year in: crickets.

A simple drive-by offers a glimpse of the many "Retail Available" signs but, alas, to no avail; this after two different realty companies have been secured. What could have been exciting new developments in the already-booming Cedar Fairmount retail/social scene have resulted in a new, yet desolate and depressing, zone that no one seems to want to touch.

Why? Surely adding to the mix of businesses like The Fairmount, Appletree Books, Zhug, etc. would create a kind of neighborhood alchemy that government leaders and planners had promised and hoped for all along. "If we build it, they will come"; we did, but they haven't.

One suggested clue into why these retail spaces remain empty is in the faulty parking situation that developers Flaherty & Collins have delivered. The community was promised a five-story parking garage that would be tucked away in the apartments of the Ascent. True to their word, there the five-story garage sits. But scratch the surface and you'll discover real problems with this structure; try to find much available parking between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., and you may sorely disappointed.

Ascent residents have their own gated section, floors 3, 4, and 5 of the garage; other local residents and all current and potential retail customers are allocated floors 1 and 2. The problem is that the garage is unmonitored, so Ascent residents park in the most convenient spots and take up nearly half of the first two floors, while the top 1½ floors are completely unused. Upon several inspections, floor four is continually half-full and no car has ever been discovered parking on floor five. So, the five-story garage promised by the developer is a de facto 3½-story working garage.

Contacting Flaherty & Collins, I learned that there is an employee who resides on site who has been "observing" the garage in the evening hours. Before any more precious time is lost looking for retailers to move into the several vacant spaces, this employee, or someone who actually cares about the situation, needs to take a count of the many Ascent parking tags found in cars parked on floors 1 and 2, and step up their monitoring system, so when future retail tenants come calling, they can be assured of enough parking spaces to accommodate their prospective customers.

We all deserve much better.

Don King

Don King served as pastor of Peace Lutheran Church. He has been a resident of Cleveland Heights since 1985, and has served congregations, and been active in the local interfaith community, since 1999.

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Volume 17, Issue 4, Posted 10:53 AM, 03.28.2024