On June 30, the leases for the tenants of the Coventry School building at the Coventry PEACE Campus expired with no agreement in place to move forward. The landlord, Heights Libraries, has agreed to extend the leases on a month-to-month basis while it continues attempts to negotiate a new lease with the tenants’ governing body, Coventry PEACE, Inc.
Heights Libraries signed leases with individual tenants that had occupied the Coventry School building when it acquired the property from the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District in June 2018. The six-acre property includes the free parking lot that serves the adjacent Coventry Branch Library and local merchants, the occupied Coventry School building, and adjacent green space and playground.
As part of the lease agreements, Heights Libraries gave the tenants two years to create a single governing entity and create a financially feasible structure for taking over the building. The tenants’ rent payments covered utilities, and their leases also called for the creation of a Reserve Account to reimburse the Library for advancing capital costs for repairs and maintenance performed by the Library during the two-year term. The leases include a clause for collective repayment of the Reserve Account at the conclusion of the tenancies.
The Library’s finance office created a special fund to keep the Coventry School building expenses separate from Library expenses, and has to date spent approximately $100,000 on upkeep and maintenance of the building beyond what the rental income garnered.
Due to the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Library allowed the tenants to hold over following the expiration of their term, and granted the tenants one month to review and sign a letter of intent (LOI) for a one-year lease as Coventry PEACE, Inc., with an option to extend the term provided that the tenant meets conditions such as demonstrating financial solvency and a fundraising plan, and repaying the Reserve Account. This LOI and a $25,000 reserve contribution are due to the Library by August 1, 2020.
“We have done what we were asked to do and are concerned that the tenants have not progressed further by this time,” said Heights Libraries Director Nancy Levin. “As of this week, they have only placed about $12,000 in the Reserve Account over the past two years.”
Of the original tenants two have left, Coventry Day Care and Urban Oak School. Earlier this year, Family Connections announced that it would leave by December of 2020. The remaining tenants include Artful, Ensemble Theater, Lake Erie Ink, Reaching Heights, Future Heights, Cleveland Heights Teacher’s Union and two small spaces rented out to Sherri Skedel (a therapist who works with children), and Robin Van Lear, an artist and founder of Parade the Circle.
The Library’s motivation to take on ownership of the property was three-fold: to retain much-needed free parking space for the library’s Coventry branch customers, to allow the non-profit tenants in the former Coventry School building to remain in Cleveland Heights, and to keep the park and playground open to the public, which is stipulated by the property’s original deed from 1917, when Grant Deming donated the land to the community.
The Library will retain ownership of the property and plans to continue to enhance the park space. “The park and parking lot has always been a focus of our desire to acquire the property,” Levin said. “In the end, if the tenants don’t succeed, we may demolish the school building and enlarge the park.”