Seven Decision-making Principles for Major Redevelopment Projects

Submitted by Ed Morrison on Fri, 06/15/2007 - 09:01.

Hunter Morrison recently submitted this note at the request of the Cleveland City Planning Commission.

The City Planning Commission is empowered by the Charter and by the Codified Ordinances to grant or deny permission to demolish, alter or construct buildings in the City’s Public Land Protective District. While, in most cases, the Commission can rely on the advice of its staff and the actions of the Design Review Committee to inform its decisions, in high profile cases, the Commission itself must take the role of primary decision-maker. These cases often involve the demolition of significant buildings, such as the Cuyahoga Building, the Engineers Building, and the Allen Theater.

The decision to demolish a significant building is a difficult, painful, public decision that the Commission can only properly make after it has engaged in extensive, detailed and specific investigation and deliberation. The facts that the Commission must, at a minimum, consider in making its decision to authorize the demolition of a building in the Public Land Protective District are explicitly described in the City’s Codified Ordinances.

In addition to insuring that these minimum requirement are met, the Commission must endeavor to insure that the decision to demolish is accepted by the public as an unpleasant but necessary and well-justified public act. To achieve this end, the Commission must endeavor to make its decision to demolish based on verifiable facts and not on contradictory information, emotionally charged rhetoric, or political influence by the proponents. The process itself must be transparent and didactic: It must seek to maintain public trust while educating the public on the hard data and the deliberative process that led the Commission to conclude that a treasured building must go.

To achieve public acceptance of the unpleasant reality of such a demolition, I would suggest Seven Principles that have guided the Commission in the past and can guide the Commission as it deals with the fate of Marcel Breuer’s Ameritrust Office Tower.

1. Know all the Facts and Make Sure that the Public Knows Them, Too:

Know the facts about the site dimensions and acquisition costs and the existing built environment that surrounds it. Know about the need for new development and the community’s priorities for the area. Know the costs of site preparation and facility construction. Know the estimated operating and maintenance costs and understand the community opportunity costs involved in undertaking this project. Know the costs of adoptive reuse and the premium, if any, that must be paid to modify the threatened building for a new use. Share this information with interested parties and the public. Resolve any contradictions in the information presented so that the Commission, the proponents, the interested parties, and the pubic are in accord with the fundamental facts of the case.

2. Know that the Building Fails to Meet the Functional Requirements of the Intended New Use:

Know the functional capabilities and constraints of the existing property and understand its suitability for adoptive reuse to meet the needs of the proposed new program. Acknowledge that forcing a developer or public agency to invest unwisely in a building ill-suited to their needs is as inappropriate an action as that of approving a demolition without having first undertaken a diligent and deliberative review of the facts of the case.

3. Know that the Developer Controls the Site:

Know that the project developer has acquired or otherwise controls the entire site. Identify any required public actions, such at street vacations or the granting of easements, that must be accomplished to achieve site control and know that the legislative process for these public actions is well under way. Before making a final, binding decision to authorize demolition, know the reaction of affected adjacent property owners, particularly in cases requiring a street or alley vacation, as these actions impact their business interests.

4. Know what Development will Replace the Demolished Building:

Know what new development will occur on the entire site including new buildings, on-site parking and associated plazas and greenspace. Understand the physical impacts the project will have on the adjacent property owners—including traffic, parking, light and wind conditions—both during construction and permanently. Understand the likely economic impacts of the proposed development, particularly the impacts on adjacent street level retail and street life. Be convinced that the proposed new development has sufficient public benefit, both aesthetically and economically, to justify the demolition of a treasured building and the disruption to the adjacent property owners. Know the developer’s implementation timetable and be convinced that there is a high probability of success.

5. Know How any Historic Properties on the Site will be Integrated Into the Entire Project:

Know the proposed use of any Historic Property to be retained and the details of its physical connection to or integration with the new elements of the project. Understand the treatment both of the Historic Property’s exterior and any significant interior spaces. Understand the developer’s intent with regard to the use of Federal and State Historic Tax Credits and be convinced that the proposed design will not compromise any intended reliance on these credits. Consult with the State Historic Preservation Office and seek their review and guidance prior to making any final, binding decision to authorize demolition. Understand who will own and who will operate the Historic Property once the project is completed and be convinced that there is a high probability of success for any proposed reuse of the property.

6. Know the Downside Economic Impacts of Undertaking the Project:

Recognize that Downtown Cleveland is a weak commercial office and retail market and understand what the project’s likely impacts will be on these markets. Notify affected property owners and invite their engagement before—rather than after—the Commission has made as final, binding decision. In the case of the County Administration Building and the Lincoln Building—both of which front Cleveland’s historic Mall, understand its proposed demolition and the impact that abandoning this property will have on the adjacent Convention Center and Mall.

7. Know that the Project, Taken as a Whole, is a Betterment for the City:

Know the economic impact of the proposed development and the impact it will likely have on the economic viability of adjacent properties. Know that aesthetically the project, in its entirety, is at least equal to, if not greater than the buildings it replaced. Know that the proposed new building is a “Cleveland Building” that is a product of its generation and represents the highest quality of design and development achievable. Be convinced that you have made the best possible decision for the future of the City of Cleveland and not just for the present moment.

June 13, 2007

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thanks Ed for posting this

This is a decision matrix that should be embroidered on the pillows of every member of the planning commission. I would guess that many planning commission members already have such pillows, perhaps they will share the wealth -- county planning probably has a storeroom of them on hand.

Today we can be appreciative that Tony Coyne took a 10 mile run in downtown Chicago among that city's great buildings and parks and had time to digest these ideas presented so eloquently last week by Hunter. Tony's impassioned speech helped to remind the members of the commission that a political decision is not what they are called to make, but rather one that serves the public, the citizenry and taxpayers of Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland. Thanks also to 16 individuals who spoke out against the demolition at last week's meeting and many more who wrote letters encouraging a more measured consideration before any actions are taken or demolitions are allowed.

It is my opinion that since County workers are currently in offices and are not seen typing on old Smith Coronas on the sidewalks of the city or using public phones to do their work, we (who live in this region which is beleaguered by criticism and failure of government historically) have plenty of time to get it right and not be caught by some photojournalist from the AP with our pants down, our hands in the cookie jar or whatever other metaphor of head in the sand decision making one might be tempted to apply. Tim and Jimmy should be appreciative of this well reasoned guide to decision making on a master plan for their constituents. Let us know when Hunter has received their thank you letters.

Ever wonder why politicians

Ever wonder why politicians seem to be answering questions from behind a cracked doors? I have approached many over the years and many seem to be on edge, is it because every thing they do and everything they say can and will be used against them? 


Reporter, “Care to comment on that sir?” Politician, “Not at this moment” Reporter, “we have to wonder what they are hiding it must be corrupt and self-serving.  It must be why else would they not be open and honest about it?”    


Is there a difference in representing public concerns and manipulating public opinions?


I understand the artistic interest in the site; I also understand the original owner was not that pleased with it.  When Ameritrust was given the option to complete the second tower or move to a new location they choose to move away from it.  The problem with the design was that of scale unlike Breuer’s work at the museum, which balances the scale, this design did not.  I thought that if the bank completed the second tower it might help with that.  But once the new design for the new tower was unveiled, most gave up on completing the Breuer site.  Its interesting do the research find people that worked in the building they choose to move because they did not find the space that functional.


In the 70’s it was very in vogue to marry neoclassical architecture with modern architecture, we have examples at the Cleveland Museum of Art and then again at the Cleveland Trust headquarters.  By the way the bank headquarters was just as controversial as the name change it went through from Cleveland Trust to Ameritrust.    It happened because executives did not believe that Cleveland Trust was a suitable name for a national bank. 


The bank failed, it lost its identity and also failed to protect itself from being taken over.


The Rotunda does have historical significance; it represents the wealth the city once held during the great depression that bank never shut its doors.


I worked in the tower, I recall making a comment about the design, not a negative comment.  I said, “Wow so this is what the windows look like from the inside”.  I got this awful look and response, “we do not like people who criticize our building we love our Bruerer”.  I was very young, I thought what a pretentious little ass, she did not ask me what I thought, she told me what to think.    I went back to the office, asked what is a Bruerer.  I was told the designer of the building and asked if I made fun of the building?  I laughed and said no, but I got some weird reaction when I said something about the windows. My co-worker laughed and said that I should have warned you about that.  She told me that the building gets a lot of criticism about its design we have two types those that love it and those that hate it.     I asked her what she thought about it, she said I really don’t care but it has a crappy layout for working in, some people think more about what it looks like and forget what we do here!   I suspect that in the county process they also seen the poor layout and use of space, they only received one bid of six to retrofit within the budget.            


The county received six bids and only one chose to save the structure.

Two of the three commissioners went with the majority of engineers that submitted bids. 


That concerns me one person, one option. Do you like that plan, did it address all the concerns you have?  Are those bent on saving the building calling for a reversal of the process?  Is that possible?  Should the county resubmit the bid requests and make it restricted to keeping the structure?   That will cost more and also leave them open for lawsuits they already have contracts.   


The commissioners must be scratching their heads; will people that are not county workers force the county into reusing the space?  If that happens then we get the one choice, people ask why is their only one choice?  That’s because one firm thought it was a good idea and that they could do it for under 164M. 


If a functional layout of an office is put in front of three people and two say no and one says yes, is it ego or practicality that influences the decision.   It is cost and functionality to me, but that’s how my mind works.  I do not think it is ego, which would make it overly personalized.    

Wow be careful what you wish for, I wonder why people are ignoring the details of the county process, doing so is not honest and truthful.  Just because you are not involved in the process does not mean it does not exist or is corrupt or even ineffective.      

Breuer Tower

"The county received six bids and only one chose to save the structure. "

Some clarificatin is needed with this comment.  The results you cite are from the SECOND call for bids.  The first call contained "adaptive reuse" of the existing structure and new construction.  The second bid put out for the commissioners asked for ONLY new construction.  The one bid in that group that continued with the adaptive reuse option really had no chance of winning the bid since the county said ONLY new construction.  In fact, more than one architectural firm dropped out of the bidding because the county would not consider adaptive reuse.


 I have been one of the people calling for disclosure by the county.  There is no reason why the public does not have the right to see the detailed plans of the county for the use of this site.  After all, it is our money that they are using.  If plans exist, why aren't they shown?  What is the big deal?  It does not breed confidence in a plan when the lead architect constantly inserts the disclaimer that these are concepts these are not final plans every fourth or fifth sentence.


Believe me, when I say it was much more apparent in the presentation that the company NOT winning the bid had worked much harder on the nuts and bolts of emlpoyee satisfaction which leads to efficiency and productivity in a much more comprehensive manner than the winning bidder who said that the employee work space would be transformational.  Would you like to explain to me the word transformational because that was the extent of the "employee experience" in the presentation? 

records request and NYTimes story on Breuer Tower

Trotter said that the materials in question are county property and could be considered public records if requested by citizens or the press, but would not be released for use by an architecture firm that makes a presentation to another government body.

Has someone requested the plans as a citizen requesting public records?

Breuer Tower made the front page of the e-NYtimes this morning:
the article is here: New Focus on a Forlorn Cleveland Tower

I thought this was interesting, too -- searching commissioner's meeting agendas and actions I found this:

In regard to your question about money or contracts given to Madison hastily… It was decided unanimously– so why did Peter vote that way if he knew Madison would tear it down?



this was the most apt post so far

This was the most apt post so far on the commissioners vote to raise taxes with no plan. Ohmigod! I am laughing so hard I am holding my sides!!! This is truly the best comment ever -- and I am not being facetious.

It reminds me of a theater review (was it Dorothy Parker?)  -- the play was so bad she responded with a column inch of blank space? I am too tired to remeber the writer who did this.
But this is the ultimate no plan response to the BOCC's no plan tax raising scheme!

more on this topic here at BFD.

Seriously though -- no streak of blue language (which would be very warranted), not a pshaw of disgust at the highway robbery -- just a very clean reflection of what our BOCC is giving us -- nada.

It was never possible to

It was never possible to save the Bruerer, once they bought it in 2005 its destructions was inevitable.  The building on Euclid could have been saved; it is part of the original Cleveland trust headquarters. 


None of these huge expenditures are being linked so far to any adjacent developments, nothing linking to the private sector. 


Nothing new just a huge government complex so far, those funds need to be cycled through adjacent private developments. 


It not funny government demands it when a private developer is building in the city, they demand linkage projects. 


I am not crazy…I would like to see housing and parking addressed, a robotic garage and residential and ground floor retail!   I also want a PR campaign to get county employees to live downtown.   


You waited to long to save the building you should have been getting historical preservation involved before they bought it; it sat there for 20 years!  It is not to late to influence the site and the spending of the funds.   Look around the site everything is vacant across the street on 9th street the building is for sale, so is the building next to 1010 Euclid.  Change your game plan or you will end up a day late and buck short again.  The designs are in the developmental stages and you are still fighting against the demolition. When the building is gone the site plans will have already been finalized. 


The county has an ombudsmen that is channel in, linkage synergy make other things happen.  A big economic redevelopment project, not just an office complex, this is a lot of money.  Its about adding value not money going straight into contractor’s hands, it can but the trail needs to have added value to other adjacent properties.             

never say never

So the building sat there for 20 years. OK well while it was sitting there vacant, I (we -- the taxpayers) did not own it. Jacob's owned it like so many absentee landlords who have let their properties in Cleveland waste away toward blight only now to require Cleveland tax dollars to raze them and release them from the over inflated portfolios of real estate and bank magnates who used them as collateral to build big box developments in sprawl land elsewhere in the country. Example -- everyone extols the virtues Nathan Zaremba brings to Cleveland by building downtown -- here's what he is doing elsewhere for example:

Jacob's websites for retail all looka jes the same:
note how many downtown projects for office space
Then check out this controversy (note here that the site includes a letter from our own Laura McShane dated 3-22-01)
and then this
Look at the available land here -- could some of it remain green space to accommodate the run off from those buildings and parking lots -- oh no, we have no storm water utility here in NEO, no mandate for green building and no plan to stem the sprawl. So when Jacob's asks, we just bend over? Looks like that may be the case. Avon, Westlake, Highland Heights, where else?

From the County Planning website:
We needed another interchange and another Lifestyle Center like a hole in the head! Then they tried (unsuccessfully) to hijack Beck Center what's more. Jeez!

Vacant office space? Available office space? Why? Are developers like Jacob's pulling the rug out from under downtowns even while they purport to be in support of them?

Craislist has to be updated weekly, but today here's what you can get in downtown Cleveland: be sure to feel the impact when you scroll to the bottom and see "Next 100 listings" When the county vacates the offices they are in currently, those landlords will be advertising.

Plans were drawn many years ago to make the building residential -- by Cleveland architect Robert Gaede (Tim, when was this?). Did Jacobs lift a finger to redevelop the site or did he just add it to his collateral? The commissioners could have chosen another site, they could have required adaptive reuse, they didn't need to buy this building just to tear it down.

Here's a news item from a while back:
Jacobs Group preps former Ameritrust home for new use

Byline: Bullard, Stan
Publication Date: 06-09-2003

Win or lose in the looming competition to become the consolidated home of multiple Cuyahoga County offices, the Richard E. Jacobs Group plans to put the vacant 28-story building that once housed Ameritrust Corp. in a posture for redevelopment.

Jacobs Group, a Westlake-based development company owned by Richard Jacobs, has asked the city of Cleveland to apply for $3 million in Clean Ohio Funds from the state's brownfield remediation program. City Council's Community and Economic Development Committee last week approved legislation authorizing a bid for the money, and council as a whole is expected to act on the measure today, June 9.

The majority of the project's cost would be borne by Jacobs Group, which estimates it will need to sink $4.17 million into the $7.17 million job. According to an application for the grant filed by the city's Economic Development Department, prospective users or buyers of the building have been put off during the last decade by the cost and time required to rid the property of asbestos.

Jacobs Group abated asbestos on two floors of the building last year to establish an estimate for how much it would cost to remove all the cancer-causing material from the structure. Ridding the building of environmental concerns would position Jacobs Group to compete to become the new home of Cuyahoga County government, which is considering a plan to consolidate in a single location the offices in its current administrative building and in many of the 40 other buildings the county occupies throughout downtown.

However, in the application for Clean Ohio Funds, Jacobs Group has proposed that if it fails to win the county offices, it would convert the Ameritrust complex into a mixed-use development incorporating office, retail and housing. A Jacobs Group spokesman, Jeff Linton, said he does not have a time line for the alternative proposal if the developer must pursue it.

The Ameritrust tower was left vacant after its former occupant, Ameritrust Corp., was acquired in 1991 by its local banking rival, Society Corp., now known as KeyCorp. JacobsGroup had acquired the building as part of a deal to build Ameritrust a new Public Square headquarters , which came to naught because of the acquisition.

Reviving the office tower, as well as the Italian Renaissance-style bank rotunda at East Ninth Street and Euclid Avenue and three other buildings that comprise the Ameritrust complex, would remove one more albatross in the renewal of downtrodden Euclid Avenue. Councilwoman Merle Gordon, Ward 15, said she expects the measure for the Clean Ohio Funds to pass at council's meeting tonight.

"It's a little different from our other Clean Ohio projects because they don't have a specific end user," said Ms. Gordon, who chairs council's Community and Economic Development Committee.

"No matter what they explore, it will be helped if they have the building in a clean form," Ms. Gordon said. "This is at one of the major intersections of the city. I'm encouraged by this."

Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, who serves as president of the three-member Board of Commissioners this year, said the commissioners have signed a letter supporting Jacobs Group's bid for the money. However, he said he doesn't believe that support obligates the county to go to that property.

"It allows (Mr. Jacobs) to clean up his building and market it," Mr. Dimora said. "It doesn't mean market it to the county. It gives him an opportunity to make it viable."

Mr. Dimora said commissioners also decided last week that they would circulate a request for proposals among builders and developers to lease a building for the new county offices or to build one for them - if doing so saves the county money and improves its operations. The idea was temporarily sidelined earlier this year as the county worked through budget woes.

Mr. Dimora said the county wants to study consolidating offices now while the office market is glutted and the real estate market downtown is soft in hopes of getting a better price on the property. He said he expects heated competition among developers for the county contract.

 Did Jacob's get the money from Clean Ohio -- Did they remove asbestos there already? Do you know? Did I miss that news item? What else did I miss?

Just because we couldn’t stop them from making a bad decision in the first place doesn’t mean we can’t ask them to make a course correction now. I agree with you that we need to improve neighborhoods and many other things.


The strategy of getting taxpayers to fund demolitions.  Gee, sounds so familiar.   Who will examine the City of Cleveland's demolition push??  Who is being awarded the contracts, who is benefiting from these demolitions?  What happens to all the vacant lots?  Do they go into the land bank or stay with the owner of the demolished structure?

 With the Breuer building the scam is obvious and taxpayers are taking mutiple hits.  We put money in Jacobs pocket after he allowed the building to languish for years, and we'll take more hits, if we allow the crooks to profit by tearing down one building to rebuild another at our cost. A complete lose-lose.

Zaremba = One of the DIRTY DOZEN

Zaremba # 8      owes $ 415,479.29
Cuyahoga County’s Top Tax Delinquencies (“The Dirty Dozen”)



The individuals and businesses listed below represent 12 of Cuyahoga County's highest delinquent property taxpayers. The list was compiled by scanning a complete list of delinquent taxpayers in Cuyahoga County for large delinquencies and, by combining into a single total delinquency, multiple parcels owned by the same individual or business.

Want to make sure you and your business never appear on this list? Contact the Cuyahoga County Treasurer’s Office to make sure that all your property taxes are paid in full. 


 1. Bridgeview Centers South LLC $3,102,272.98
 2. 3420 E 93rd Street CO. $1,053,838.84
 3. Erieview Tower Parking $971.398.36
 4. Randal Park Mall LLC $838,532.84
 5. Euclid Realty LLC $741,067.28
 6. Cinema Park LLC $609,683.89
 7. Bedford Properties LTD $564,179.48
 8. Zaremba Avenue LLC $415.579.29
 9. Coventry Courts LLC $375.809.33
 10. Pearl Community Development Co. LLC $337,340.34
 11. DCI United Properties LLC $304,483.31
 12. Tri-Square Corp $297,848.27


Years of property taxes overlooked by the prior administration.   Delinquent property taxes on several Zaremba properties dating back to 2009.


How did the Dirty Dozen get so damn dirty??


Cuyahoga County Land Bank - Creators dabble in TEN MILLION DOLLAR Property Jim Rokakis & Gus Frangos





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