Cleveland Heights opts for further talks with Top of the Hill developers on Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook site

By Thomas Jewell

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Entering into further talks on the proposed redevelopment of the city-owned Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook site, City Council will stick with the familiar faces — and accompanying wherewithal — of Flaherty & Collins Properties.

Already at work on the Top of the Hill project, F&C has teamed with City Architecture of Cleveland on a proposal for a $50 million development on 4.8 acres in Cedar-Lee.

It would be primarily residential, consisting of about 200 market-rate luxury apartments interspersed in buildings three to four stories high. F&C reportedly is looking at how some could “wrap” around the city’s 377-space parking garage, with a separate access entrance for 82 cars.

After sending out a new request for proposals from interested developers in October, the city received two, with presentations made in February.

On Monday (April 19), council unanimously went with City Economic Development Director Tim Boland’s earlier recommendation to enter into negotiations with F&C to work toward an initial memorandum of understanding.

That could then lead to a formal development agreement with the city, as well as the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District, where officials would also need to sign off on a 30-year tax increment financing (TIF) package that F&C has proposed.

A similar TIF is already in place for the $83 million Top of the Hill project, where the CH-UH Schools went from about $40,000 in annual tax revenues for a city surface parking lot to receiving over $400,000 a year.

Through those “payments in lieu of taxes (”PILOTs”), it works out to about $12.3 million over 30 years for the school district, with the city receiving about $14.3 million with 32 years on its TIF.

Those amounts likely wouldn’t be as high on a $50 million project, although Boland noted that F&C’s latest investment proposal came in about 2 1/2 times more than the other proposal, from City Six and M. Panzica Development, along with LDA Architects.

The runners-up presented two phases to their project, beginning with the original single-acre Meadowbrook and Lee site, where they proposed a $21 million, five-story building with 112 apartments — ranging from 500-square-foot units to three bedrooms — along with 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

As for the rest of the city-owned site — namely the 189-space surface parking lot behind the Cedar-Lee Theatre — that would have been part of a yet-to-be determined “phase two.”

In making his recommendation to council, Boland reiterated that “bifurcating” the property into separate phases made it less probable that the entire site would be developed.

Boland also noted that the greater economic development impact would be realized through the F&C proposal to bring nearly 300 new residents to Cleveland Heights.

Councilwoman Melody Joy Hart asked that prevailing wage and local hiring provisions be incorporated into the memorandum of understanding, along with “robust community engagement” on the plan.

Previous pitfalls

Negotiations with an earlier developer, the Cedar Lee Connection team, carried on for more than a year through three extensions of a previous memorandum of understanding before that proposal was scrapped last summer without a formal agreement being reached.

Some of the delays were attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic that limited public input on the proposal. But another sticking point in finalizing a development agreement was the city’s requirement of a “personal guarantee” that the project would be completed.

That has not proven to be an issue for F&C, which put up the necessary backing on the Top of the Hill proposal and would do so in turn for Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook, officials said.

After the previous talks with Cedar Lee Connection fell through last summer, the city wasted little time in putting together a new request for proposals.

“We had two very strong and excellent proposals,” noted Councilman Mike Ungar, who chairs the Planning and Economic Development Committee, as council accepted Boland’s recommendation that “we move forward and commence with negotiations on a memorandum of understanding with Flaherty & Collins.”

In their initial proposal, F&C officials also asked for a 99-year land lease on the city-owned property at $10 a year, with an option to purchase after 40 years.
“We would not expect any additional city tools to be needed on this project, but we are flexible and will work with the city on what it deems to be the best tools to use here,” the F&C proposal added.


Although they were hoping to have a development agreement in place by March, the F&C timetable earlier called for design completion by the end of the year, construction commencing next February and completion by December 2023.