Brennan declares UH 'back on the map'
University Heights Mayor Michael Brennan reported on Feb. 11, in his second State of the City address, that University Heights is "back on the map."
Brennan began his speech by relaying a discussion he had with resident Ari Jaffe, prior to the 2017 election, in which Jaffe asked Brennan if he was considering merging University Heights with a neighboring city. Paraphrasing the conversation, Brennan said Jaffe felt at the time that University Heights was “adrift, without direction, without purpose, without identity.”
In just two years, Brennan said, there’s now an energy in the city. “I didn’t do it alone,” Brennan said. “We did it, working together—the mayor’s office, city council, the good men and women who come to work every day for our city. Citizens like him [Jaffe], who step up and serve our community. And the residents who expect good things, and deserve good things.”
Brennan described University Heights as strong, and growing stronger. “We have found our identity, we are back on the map, and we’re building something special here in University Heights,” he said.
Brennan reported that construction is set to begin in 2020 on redevelopment at University Square, and on new infill housing and new townhomes.
Phase I of the University Square rebuild will comprise approximately 203 market-rate apartments, and 5,000 square feet of new retail, some of which might be live/work space. “As Phase I is completed,” Brennan said, “we will work together on Phase II, and for what is worthy of this high-profile center of our community.”
Brennan praised city council, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, and county officials for working together with the original bond holders and Kowit & Company Real Estate Group [the developer] on the project.
Brennan credited the City Beautiful CIC for coming to terms with Knez Builders to construct three infill homes on vacant lots in the city. The homes will have architectural characteristics consistent with current homes in University Heights, but with modern construction, open floor plans, and today’s amenities.
Brennan said the new townhome development, planned for the north end of Cedar-Taylor, will be marketed toward young professionals and empty nesters, and will feature luxury finishes and rooftop views of downtown Cleveland.
Brennan said his administration is working on building a sense of community with new events, such as Fall Fest and the City Beautiful 5K, and revamped events, such as the city’s Summer Concert Series, Civic Awards, and Memorial Day parade. “Our city is and ought to be a community of neighbors,” Brennan said. “Neighbors who interact, socialize, and have fun together.”
Brennan praised the city’s police and fire departments. “In their first full calendar year in their respective positions, Chief Dustin Rogers and Chief Robert Perko built upon their departments past successes, and are well positioned to continue to do the hard and important work to protect the safety of everyone in University Heights—not just those who live here, but those who work here, go to school here, and those who shop and visit,” Brennan said.
Brennan also congratulated UH Building Commissioner James McReynolds on his upcoming retirement, and Housing and Community Development Director Patrick Grogan-Myers on his new position with the city of Maple Heights.
Under UH Finance Director Dennis Kennedy, Brennan said the city has revised both its investment and reserve policy. “One of the reasons we brought in an expert like Dennis Kennedy,” Brennan said, “was to have a sure hand to show us the way financially and make good long-term decisions.”
Brennan concluded by contrasting University Heights with what’s happening in Washington, D.C. “I don’t have to tell you, this country is tearing itself apart,” he said. “We have seen our national office holders put the ‘coarse’ in discourse.
“I resolve to continue to be the change I want to see in our country—positive, progressive, responsive, sensitive, open, and strong,” Brennan vowed. “I could not be prouder to hold the honor of being your mayor and leading this city, and all it represents."
Mike Cook is the communications and civic engagement coordinator for University Heights.