Top of the Hill developer offers new $50 million proposal for Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook site

By Thomas Jewell, special to

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — A pair of new development proposals for the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook site provide a little bit of history vs. a little bit of mystery.

One comes from Flaherty & Collins Properties, developers of the Top of the Hill project, who are now proposing to team up with Cleveland-based City Architecture on a $50 million development that mirrors their current work-in-progress.

The new project would consist of a mix of 200 to 225 market-rate luxury apartments in buildings four to five stories high — most if not all of that on the city’s 187-space surface parking lot — with 10,000 square feet of new commercial space, along with a one-third-acre park and green space preserved at the corner of Meadowbrook Boulevard and Lee Road.

City Economic Development Director Tim Boland also touted F&C’s “robust plan for integrating the existing (377-space) parking garage into the project by wrapping certain elevations with new facades and residential uses.”

Flaherty & Collins’ construction is proposed to commence in February 2022 and be completed by the end of 2023.

“Of course, the city has experience with this developer and an ongoing relationship with them with the Top of the Hill project,” Boland said. “F&C is proposing to follow a similar playbook, including 30-year tax increment financing (TIF) and providing corporate and personal guaranties as needed, along with a ground lease arrangement.”

The second proposal comes from City Six and M. Panzica Development, along with LDA Architects, the latter firm having been on board for protracted negotiations that ran past several council-approved time extensions, which ran out last summer with no development agreement being reached.

Their $21 million capital investment bears similarities to the original proposal put forth by the Cedar-Lee Connection for the one-acre site before the city added acreage with its parking lot in mid-2019.

“This team proposes to develop the area bounded by Lee and Meadowbrook, at the southern end of the site, as ‘Phase I,’ with an ‘eventual’ but unspecified ‘Phase II’ development of the northern 3.37 acres to potentially occur at some point in the future,” Boland noted.

“Phase I” would include a five-story apartment building on the single acre, with roughly 112 units, and ground-floor retail proposed at around 20,000 square feet, Boland noted in his memo, adding that the building would be “V” shaped, with a public plaza fronting Lee and a neighborhood gateway across Tullamore serving as a covered connection to the existing parking garage.

“I would have been more inclined to recommend interviewing both teams if City Six and M. Panzica had proposed redeveloping the entire 4.80-acre site,” Boland said. “But bifurcating the site into two phases does not provide as high a degree of confidence of complete site redevelopment as is generated by the F&C-City Architecture proposal.”

City Six-Panzica construction is projected to commence in December 2021 and be completed in October 2022.

Boland added that there is no no time frame or commitment provided for a second phase by City Six-Panzica, and it appears that a “Phase II” remains dependent on the success of “Phase I.”

“After so many years and attempts at redeveloping this site, I believe the city would achieve a high probability of certainty of execution of a quality development if the F&C-City Architecture team were selected,” Boland said.

He recommended a memorandum of understanding be approved to start work toward a formal development agreement with F&C-City Architecture.

Rather than refer the proposals to the Planning and Development Committee that he chairs, Councilman Mike Ungar suggested having all his colleagues consider them at once, as well as Future Heights and possibly the city’s other community development corporations.

“To move things along, my preference would be to just tee it up and have everyone look at it,” Ungar said at the Monday (Jan. 11) Committee-of-the-Whole meeting. “Both are good proposals that are worthy and meritorious for all of us to look at.”