Brennan outlines plan to move UH forward
At his fifth State of the City address, University Heights Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan reported the state of University Heights is strong. “And to remain strong," he said, "we must keep moving forward. To do that, it depends on all of us.”
In five years, said Brennan, residents, city employees, business owners and educators have teamed up to accomplish much. “But we’ve only just begun,” he said. “We will not let University Heights fall behind.”
In his one-hour address, the second-term mayor gave updates on future projects, while proposing new initiatives.
DEI Officer: Brennan said recognizing and celebrating diversity is “something we need to be actively doing every day, not just in February (for Black History Month), not just in June (for Pride Month and Juneteenth). Not merely ceremonially, but in the day-to-day operation of our city.
“The time has come for the city of University Heights to create and fill the position of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer (DEI)."
The DEI Officer would be charged with leading the institutionalization of DEI principals in all city policies, decision-making and services, while also working across city departments to ensure a diverse workforce, and to facilitate training and ongoing conversations on equity and inclusion.
New municipal facilities: Brennan discussed the need for new facilities for the Police, Fire, and Service departments, as well as an accessible and convenient City Hall and City Council chambers.
"Our new facilities must also provide community space,” said the mayor. "We have seen with the renovated University Heights Library the intense demand on the meeting rooms they built. And we have felt the loss of those rooms with the flood [the library] suffered last year.
“As we assemble our land and before we design the space, we must acknowledge the limited available space in our community and for our community.”
Brennan said he understands the need for community space, but there are additional needs: "We already hear the calls for meeting rooms. But what about a renovated pool with a splash pad? Or an indoor pool? Or workout facilities? What about a dog park? What about winter and year-round recreation? Perhaps an auditorium for speakers, music, theater and other events?"
Brennan said his administration will actively seek input from the community regarding what is called for.
Onward at John Carroll University (JCU): Brennan praised JCU’s launch of a new nursing school, the upcoming construction of a fieldhouse, as well as plans for redevelopment at JCU's South Gateway.
JCU’s plan will bring to Fairmount Circle mixed-use development, with student residences over restaurants and retail, together with a parking garage. There will be new businesses coming to the Circle as part of this redevelopment, and the opportunity for current businesses to stay, as well.
“Once this project is complete, it will have a ripple effect,” Brennan said. “Many students will live closer to campus; and, as they move into university housing, this will create opportunities to refurbish student rentals across University Heights, and potentially create room to re-envision Warrensville Center Road.”
University Square: Brennan reported that the framework is set for negotiating the rest of the deal at University Square so construction can begin on a mixed-use development, including 206 market-rate apartments and new businesses.
Brennan teased that one new business is already on the way.
City finances: Brennan reported the city’s financial position is sound: “Today, we have a carryover balance of $6.5 million and over $10 million across all funds."
He noted that residents rightfully expect a lot in return for their tax dollars: “You choose to live in a community like ours and pay the taxes you do, and so you expect a lot in return. It is incumbent upon city government to bring you not only good value, but full value.
“As always, I will continue to advocate for doing better by you while responsibly utilizing our public resources.”
Brennan’s complete address is available at on the city's website, www.universityheights.com.
Mike Cook is the communications and civic engagement director for University Heights.