This post answers more recent questions from both CPC and the public about the status of the Coventry School Building. Answers were originally posted 5/18, and have been revised as of this date to provide additional context and information based on subsequent statements and inquiries. Questions from the public posed at the Monday, May 16, board meeting will be posted at a later date. CLICK HERE FOR FULL INFORMATION ABOUT THIS ISSUE.
Why did the Library agree to take ownership of the Washington Blvd property in 2018?
The Library had several reasons for accepting ownership of the six-acre site, but first and foremost, the Library wanted to keep its free parking for library customers, and wanted to preserve the park and playground so they could remain open to the public. The original deed on the property from 1917, when it was donated to the city of Cleveland Heights by Grant Deming, called for the property to be for “public, educational use.” This restriction prevents the use of the property for other, non-public uses. The deed from the School District in 2018 contains additional deed restrictions that have the effect of further barring any private development on the property.
When it acquired the property from the School District, the Library recognized the value of the organizations at the Coventry School Building and demonstrated its desire for them to continue operating in the community. The Library continues to recognize the larger purpose of the Washington Blvd property and its place in the community. The Library, in acquiring the property, also became a steward for this public asset and took on the responsibility for managing it sustainably for the good of the public as a whole. supports its stewardship of this public asset
Does the Library want the School Building to be a revenue stream?
No. The Library wishes to have the current nonprofit tenants of the school building remain in the building as long as their rent can cover the costs of operations and ongoing upkeep of the building, plus contribute to a reserve fund for emergencies and improvements. In other words, the Library’s goal for the School Building is to have a feasible path toward long-term independent economic sustainability, without requiring that public Library funds be used to subsidize School Building users or to preserve the public asset that is the School Building.
Allowing the CPC to continue paying rent at the 2021 rate plus utilities does not set aside any money for repairs and major improvements. Even if CPC could effectivity manage the building, rents would have to go up to cover costs; increased rent was part of the lease signed by CPC. Neither the existing lease with CPC nor the Library’s future lease structure is designed for the School Building to be a revenue stream for anything other than paying the costs and expenses of the School Building.
The Library does not support the property being used for commercial development, such as condos. Again, the Property is subject to a number of deed conditions that restrict the use of the property for any such private development.
Have the tenants/CPC covered all costs since 2018 (utilities, repairs, general upkeep) in addition to paying rent?
No. Under the existing lease with CPC, CPC is responsible for all costs for repairs and capital improvements to the building, in addition to paying its rent and utilities. While CPC has fulfilled its contractual obligations (rent, utilities), since 2018, the library has spent a considerable amount of money on repairs to the building, both major and minor (HVAC, plumbing, elevators, outside step replacement, pest control, etc.); on upgrading internet and phone service; and on basic maintenance like cleaning services.
Some of these Library expenses were required by the lease, while others are expenses that the lease requires CPC to pay back. Because CPC did not have the capacity to fund building repairs during the term, the Library agreed to advance any funds necessary to complete a major capital repair, provided that CPC contributed the first $10,000.00. The lease also provides the mechanism for CPC to reimburse the Library for any such advanced funds. The Library agreed to this arrangement in order to ensure that the building remain in good repair, consistent with the Library’s role as a steward of the asset. While CPC remains ultimately responsible to cover all costs, most recently, at the Board meeting on May 16, the Library board approved an advance in the amount of $18,766 to pay for a necessary HVAC repair at the building.
Has the Library refused to meet with the CPC?
No. Library management has met with CPC (and with tenants before CPC was established) many times since 2018, including as recently as March 23, when Nancy Levin had a lengthy phone call with CPC Board President Krista Hawthorn. The Library and CPC have exchanged hundreds of emails, and a Library Board member was an ex officio member of the CPC board from October 2020 to December 2021. Additionally, any meeting of the Library Board of Trustees must be open to the public and follow designated protocols; no discussions can be held in private except under specific circumstances such as personnel discussions, etc.
The Library continues to partner with many of the tenant organizations on community programs, and the majority of the Library board has visited the building in the last three months. The Library, through its attorney, has also communicated regularly with CPC’s attorney over these months regarding the expiration of the lease, the Library’s plans for the future of the building, and other status updates. Unfortunately, the legal nature of CPC’s many claims and demands regarding the lease has limited the Library’s ability to efficiently or effectively communicate with CPC and the public regarding these claims and demands.
Why won’t the library sell the building to the CPC for one dollar, like the CPC has proposed? Isn’t that what the Library paid for it when it purchased it from the CHUH School District?
The Library has no plans to sell the building or property, but even if the Library did decide to sell the building, it would be sold at market value, as a good business practice for handling tax payer property. In addition, the deed restrictions requiring public and educational purposes, and limiting private development, would still apply.
Ohio Revised Code allows school districts to transfer property titles to libraries in their communities, which is how the Library obtained the property for the symbolic price of one dollar. This special-purpose transfer from one public entity to another does not reflect the value of the property. Selling the property (to anyone) for $1.00 or some other nominal amount would not serve taxpayer interests, especially given the Library’s investment of time and resources in the building since acquiring it in 2018.
Who will manage the Coventry School building going forward? Why can’t CPC just manage the building?
At the Monday, March 16, Library Board meeting, the Board voted unanimously to approve a contract with Cresco Real Estate/Playhouse Square Management to be the exclusive managing and listing agent for the building. Initial payment to Cresco was also approved at the Monday, May 16, board meeting. Looking ahead to the new lease structure, Cresco will be paid for through the tenants’ rent payments.
CPC’s management of the building has been pursuant to its lease obligations. CPC did submit a proposal in response to the Library’s Request for Proposals (“RFP”) for management of the building, but CPC’s proposal did not meet the RFP criteria. The Library received other responses to the RFP, and hired a property manager who the Board agreed met the RFP’s criteria. See RFP information here.
The Library Board’s responsibility to be a proper steward of its assets is to the Library and, vis-à-vis, to the community. The Library believes that it would be irresponsible to move forward without a sustainable and financially responsible plan in place. As a steward for the Property, the Library is ultimately responsible for it, and has an obligation to the taxpayers of the community to ensure that the School Building is properly and professionally maintained and managed.
What is the status of new leases?
The Library has received Allegro’s feasibility and conceptual plan for management of the building, which the Library commissioned at its own expense following the expiration of CPC’s lease term. Cresco is beginning to schedule meetings with CPC and the other tenant organizations for an introduction and initial discussions regarding new lease terms and provisions. It is contemplated that new leases will be ready for distribution to individual organizational tenants by the end of June 2022.
The Library is hopeful that CPC and the other organizations at the building will thoughtfully engage in this process and find a way to continue their presence and activities in the building under the new lease structure, which will allow all tenants to focus on their own work and fundraising efforts instead of dealing with building repairs, etc. Again, the Library is supportive of CPC’s mission, programming, and contribution to the vitality of the Cleveland Heights nonprofit and arts community. The Library strongly believes that not only will the new lease structure provide for an economically sustainable building, but for an environment in which CPC, its member organizations, other nonprofit users of the building, and the community can all thrive.