Coventry P.E.A.C.E. reaches agreement with Heights Libraries
Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus (CPC) has reached an agreement with Heights Libraries on a 15-month lease of the former Coventry school building, which has been home to arts and community-service nonprofits for more than a decade. This agreement includes a path toward a 99-year lease, and allows CPC to sublet spaces to other nonprofits and build on its mission—to create a robust arts and culture center by supporting tenants through affordable rent and special programming.
An independent organization, CPC represents the building’s current tenants: Ensemble Theatre, ARTFUL, Lake Erie Ink, FutureHeights, Reaching Heights, Cleveland Heights Teachers Union and Cleveland Arts Prize-winning artist Robin VanLear.
Community residents founded Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Inc. in the 1990s, to build and maintain the Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Playground. In 2017, the organization expanded its mission to pursue the vision of an integrated campus where everyone can “create, show, learn and grow.” Led by anchor tenants Ensemble Theatre and ARTFUL, the organization aims to create the capacity to build a unique arts, education, recreation and community service hub that is greater than the sum of its parts.
In 2017, when the library purchased the six-acre property, including the building, for $1, CPC began developing a path forward for the project—one that neither the library nor the city of Cleveland Heights subsidizes. The tenants have continued to pay rent despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, and CPC has been meeting with outside advisors, including the Cleveland Foundation, to lay the groundwork for launching a multifaceted fundraising campaign.
“As citizens, we have a responsibility to do what we think is right,” said Ian Hinz, CPC’s treasurer. “This gives us an opportunity to contribute even more to the vitality of the Coventry neighborhood, the business district, and to the rest of the city.”
“This agreement is a statement on the times,” added Brady Dindia, ARTFUL board president and CPC board secretary. “Our governments and institutions aren’t able to step up right now, so it is up to organizations with good hearts and vision to do what they can.”
With the signing of a lease complete, CPC will now negotiate subleases with the current tenants, and begin recruiting new, complementary tenants who can help advance the CPC project. Rent rates will be kept as affordable as possible, to attract creative partner organizations. To do this while keeping up with the demands of its lease with the library, CPC plans to raise funds apart from the tenants’ own fundraising efforts.
CPC considers the terms of the lease to be challenging. In addition to covering all of the costs of the building, CPC has agreed to pay escalating rent over the next 10 years, while also funding all capital improvement for the building. For its part, the library has stated it is willing to work on a memorandum of understanding that outlines ways in which it will invest CPC’s rent payments into improving the park and playground, which remain solely the library’s responsibility.
“As creatives and nonprofits, we’re used to people doubting us,” said Dindia. “But we’ve overcome numerous obstacles to get this far, including trying to survive the pandemic. We’ve done our due diligence, and we believe in the viability and importance of this project.”
“We are not quitters,” added Hinz. “This site has been one of the most unique and special places in the region for more than 100 years, and the CPC vision is the foundation for the next 100 years.”
Frank Lewis is a writer and editor, and a neighbor of Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus. FutureHeights, one of the CPC tenants, publishes the Heights Observer.