Cleveland Heights seeks new development proposals for Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook site (Updated)

The Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook redevelopment site consists of nearly 5 acres of city-owned land in Cleveland Heights — much of it this 189-space surface parking lot, shown here from the top deck of the Tullamore parking garage.

(Note: Prior to City Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8, plans were announced to table the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook measure and refer it to the Planning and Development Committee for further review and discussion. This is a developing story and will be updated.)

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Coming off of a long, drawn-out and unsuccessful development bid for the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook site, city officials have wasted little time in seeking new proposals.

Upon its return from August recess, City Council was asked on Tuesday (Sept. 8) to consider authorizing Acting City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil to issue another round of Requests for Qualifications and Preliminary Development Proposals (”RFQ/RFP”) for the 4.8-acre site.

Prior to the regular meeting during “Committee-of-the-Whole” session, council in turn wasted no time in announcing plans to table the “RFQ/RFP” and refer the document to the Planning and Development Committee for further review and discussion.

Back on July 20, the preliminary agreement expired between the city and a proposed developer, Cedar Lee Connection, after a third 90-day extension had been granted in the midst of the coronavirus public health emergency.

“Unfortunately, the city and Cedar Lee Connection were unable to reach a consensus on certain elements to be included in the proposed development agreement for the project by the deadline,” a memo in last week’s council packet stated, effectively ending two years of negotiations.

This led to city staff updating the proposed “RFQ/RFP” in order to line up interested developers in October, interviews in November and presentations by finalists early next year, in hopes of beginning contract talks with the selected development team in February 2021, according to the proposed timeline.

“The city is looking for a firm with the track record and expertise in infill mixed-use redevelopment to collaborate with in order to attract new residents, create new employment opportunities, increase tax revenue, and growth in investment and economic vitality in the surrounding Cedar-Lee District and throughout the city,” the council memo adds.

As is the case with the Top of the Hill project now under way, the city already owns the land, consisting primarily of a surface parking lot behind the Cedar-Lee Theatre and other district businesses, as well as the single acre of green space off of Meadowbrook Boulevard.

Development plans would also incorporate the city’s 377-space parking garage, which was built in 2006 with an eye toward redevelopment that at the time focused on the smaller Meadowbrook & Lee site.

Those plans were later expanded to include the city’s nearly 200-space surface parking lot for a more “creative redevelopment,” City Economic Development Director Tim Boland and Business Development Manager Brian Anderson noted earlier.

In the new “RFQ/RFP,” the development goals call for a plan that:

— Creates a dense, vibrant, pedestrian-friendly and unique mixed-use development consisting of commercial, office and residential uses that leverage placemaking opportunities of the site

— Dovetails with the architecture and aesthetics of the surrounding Cedar Lee District

— Complements and is harmonious with adjacent residential neighborhoods

— Creates positive economic and fiscal benefits for the neighborhood and the city

— Incorporates green space, or at least a strong landscaping plan into the design and construction of the development

— Effectively incorporates community feedback into the design

— Encourages the inclusion of minority-owned and female-owned business enterprises in the construction of the development

— Strives to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and, at a minimum, implements sustainability best practices.

While the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis created considerable “uncertainty” for Cedar Lee Connection, the pandemic also stymied public participation in the process, something that city officials would like to have more of this time around.

As for site-control options, “it should be noted that the city’s preference at this time is for a long-term ground lease to be entered into for the redevelopment of the site,” rather than selling it to the selected developer, the proposed “RFQ/RFP” states.