Major development planned for Cedar Lee district
The Cedar Lee commercial district, the largest of the traditional neighborhood commercial districts that Cleveland Heights is known for, may soon add a new anchor to its collection. The Orlean Company, already active in the city as a partner in the Bluestone and Kenilworth Mews residential developments, is planning a four-story, mixed-use building containing 77 market-rate rental apartments and nearly 15,000 square feet of commercial space on the long-vacant, city-owned parcel on the northeast corner of Lee Road and Meadowbrook Boulevard.
Orlean’s Stuart Friedman, who states that his company is “doing this [development] because there is nothing else like it in Cleveland Heights,” said he expects the apartments will be a draw for young professionals and empty nesters who will add to the diverse mix in Cedar Lee, which he sees as already being a vibrant commercial district.
City Council has signed off on an 11-year, 80-percent tax abatement for the project, which still must be approved by the school district. Despite the apparent generosity of the abatement, the development would generate significant revenues for both the city and the schools during its first 11 years. Estimates supplied by the city envision property-tax revenues of $436,000 for the schools and $91,000 for the city during the abatement period. In its current state, the property is not generating any local government revenue. Additionally, the complex’s residents would pay a million dollars or more in income taxes during the years the abatement would be in effect.
Cleveland Heights has been conservative in its willingness to grant tax abatements in recent decades, but its neighboring municipalities have not. To keep pace with neighboring suburbs and the residential resurgence of many Cleveland neighborhoods, the city is arguably not in a good position to avoid making use of this popular economic development tool. Cleveland Heights now has more competitors than ever for its role as the pleasantly urban residential alternative for workers in the flourishing economic hubs of University Circle and Beachwood.
The city has gradually assembled the parcels that make up the Meadowbrook Lee development site over the past decade or so, and has made significant investments nearby, most notably in the five-year-old Cedar Lee parking deck, which was built with one of its enclosed parking levels designated specifically for a development like the one proposed. Two previous proposals for the vacant parcel, both of which would have included condominiums instead of the currently planned rental apartments, did not go forward.
The proposed Meadowbrook Lee development would fill up the last remaining large parcel in Cedar Lee, which, besides being the largest, is also the most centrally located of the city’s traditional commercial districts. The district is home to Heights High, the Lee Road Library, the Cedar Lee and Dobama theatres, Zagara’s Marketplace, and many small businesses.
Vince Reddy is a 16-year resident of Cleveland Heights and a FutureHeights board member; the opinions expressed are his own.