CH must address vacant commercial spaces

In the April issue of the Heights Observer, Don King lamented the vacant commercial space at the new Top of the Hill construction, citing the lack of convenient parking as one explanation. The top of Cedar Hill has always been a drive through for traffic to and from downtown, to Cedar Avenue or Euclid Heights Boulevard and outer areas. There is no street parking at the corner of Cedar and Euclid Heights Boulevard. Also, the vacant shops are elevated above the peripheral vision of pedestrians and are at the fringe of the more lively Cedar-Fairmount intersection.

Perhaps the lack of commercial residency has to do more with the high rental rates, as noted by merchants who have been approached to relocate from their present shops in the area. If this practice is successful, it will only cannibalize the neighborhood, creating vacant spaces in one of the city’s most viable neighborhoods.

That the apartments in the high rise are occupied to the extent that they are has to do more with the increased enrollment at CWRU over the past two years, forcing juniors and seniors to vacate dormitories allotted to incoming freshmen for commercial rental units in the University Circle area, often with students renting in groups of two, three or four, as units allow. Enormous apartment complexes continue to be constructed near the Cleveland Clinic campus (as well as other areas of Cleveland), as both Cleveland and Cleveland Heights continue to [lose] population: between 2010 and 2020, Cleveland’s population dropped from 396,815 to 372,024, and Cleveland Heights’ from 46,121 to 43,312. Rents are high and renters seem unwilling to compete or bargain for lower rates, in spite of the market glut. So much for capitalism.

For decades, the CH city administration argued for the need to develop Top of the Hill to expand the city’s tax base; but development also imposes additional costs to the city in new roads, police and fire protection, utilities and sewage installation. Now that the construction has been completed, we have yet to hear from the mayor or city council about the millage reduction in our property taxes provided by this expansion of our tax base.

A pressing need for Cleveland Heights is to correct the wasteland of crumbling pavement and vacant shop fronts at Severance Center. Big-box stores and online purchases have eliminated many of the small businesses in Cleveland Heights. Perhaps it is time to start converting some of the vacant storefronts throughout the city to affordable housing units.

Edward Olszewski

Edward Olszewski, retired chair of art history at CWRU, has lived in Cleveland Heights since the late 1970s.

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Volume 17, Issue 7, Posted 8:00 AM, 06.26.2024