Ten Cleveland schools OK’d for new uses

Audubon Middle School in Cleveland awaits repurposing by a Boston-based real estate developer into apartments.

The Audubon Middle School, 3055 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., in Cleveland’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood, is one of 10 school properties that are due to be repurposed in the coming years with new uses. In the case of this landmark, century-old building, it will be renovated by Boston-based TCB Ohio Inc. and the Burten Bell Carr Community Development Corp. with 107 affordable apartments for seniors plus office and community spaces in the school’s restored ballroom and library (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

Properties to become housing, retail, public spaces

City Planning Commission today gave city and school officials authority to enter into agreements with multiple proposed purchasers and real estate developers to acquire and repurpose 10 Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) properties. The disposition of those 10 properties is part of a larger effort to sell and reuse more school sites.

Most of the school properties being disposed of are located in low-income neighborhoods. All but one are on the city’s East Side where population has fallen sharply and the schools are no longer needed or were replaced with newer facilities. City and school officials said they hoped that the redevelopment of the school properties will help add new residents and/or jobs and new economic life to those neighborhoods.

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Last March, city and CMSD officials issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) from prospective purchasers and developers for 19 surplus school properties. Before today, two vacant lots owned by CMSD were awarded to new users — the 2.6-acre John W. Raper School site, 1601 E. 85th St. and the 1.3-acre Mound Elementary School site, 5405 Mound Ave., in Slavic Village. Mound School’s property will become part of a large new warehouse development. Information about the disposition of Raper school was not available.

Of the 19 school sites in the RFQ, 12 have buildings on them and seven are vacant land, said James Greene, Cleveland’s commissioner of community development. Ten property awards to private users were voted on today by planning commission; another seven will come back at a later date, he said.

Map of where the surplus schools in Cleveland are located.

Of 19 school sites deemed surplus by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and available for private redevelopment, all but one is on the city’s East Side. So far, 12 sites were chosen by private sector interests who wanted to repurpose them (CMSD).

“There are 19 school sites that CMSD wanted to put out for potential development,” Greene said. “As a result, the city worked with the school district to issue an RFQ to elicit proposals for each of those 19 sites.”

A scoring process was established to measure each developer’s ability to deliver their proposed re-uses of the school sites. Not only was the applicant’s track record and financial capacity measured but so was the feasibility of and community interest in their proposals.

Each proposal was not yet fully developed however, Green said. They were in various stages of due diligence in terms of assembling capital and production of designs. He said the proposed deed transfers have timelines and benchmarks the applicants have to meet as well as clauses in the deeds that would cause the property to remain in CMSD ownership if the timelines and benchmarks are not met.

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“We’re ready to move forward on the transfer of these sites,” Greene added.

Another Boston-based developer wants the old Empire School in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood.

Some school properties are intimately connected to their neighborhoods. Case in point is Empire Junior High School on Parmelee Ave. in Glenville, seen here in June 2019. The 106-year-old school will be renovated into apartments by Boston-based Beacon Communities (Google).

In alphabetical order, the 10 school sites that were awarded today were:

1. Audubon Middle School
3055 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Mount Pleasant
Size/age of site/building: 3.1 acres, 154,277 square feet, built in 1922
Proposed use: Renovate the existing landmark building with 107 affordable apartments for seniors plus office and community spaces in the restored ballroom and library.
Purchaser/Developer: TCB Ohio Inc. (The Community Builders) with Burten Bell Carr Community Development Corp.
Appraised at $78,000
Awarded at $1.4 million

2. Central High School
2225 East 40th St., Central
Size/age of site/building: 4.6 acres, 122,906 square feet, built in 1939
Proposed use: Renovate three-story landmark building into 90 senior apartments and amenities to support the management of the property.
Purchaser/Developer: Beacon Communities LLC doing business as BC Central School LLC
Appraised at $150,000
Awarded at $150,000

3. Charles Lake Elementary
9201 Hillock Ave., Glenville
Size/age of site/building: 3.7 acres
Proposed use: Develop vacant land with mixed income housing and small-scale retail.
Purchaser/Developer: Ozanne Construction with McCormack Baron Salazar
Appraised at $185,000
Awarded at $185,000

4. Empire Junior High School
9113 Parmalee Ave., Glenville
Size/age of site/building: 3 acres, 62,491 square feet, built in 1915
Proposed use: Renovate existing landmark building with multifamily apartments.
Purchaser/Developer: Beacon Communities LLC dba BC Empire School LLC
Appraised at $65,000
Awarded at $65,000

5. Iowa-Maple Elementary School
12510 Maple Ave., Glenville
Size/age of site/building: 2 acres, 65,709 square feet, built in 1956
Proposed use: Reuse existing building as a charter school.
Purchaser/Developer: Excel Schools Ohio dba Global School Properties Ohio LLC
Appraised at $65,000
Awarded at $65,000

MLK High School and its 11 acres are to be acquired by a Wisconsin-based real estate developer and turned into a neighborhood hub for Hough.

The largest school property to come onto the market is Martin Luther King Jr. High School on East 71st Street at Hough Avenue. This school was built on the ruins of a once vibrant, densely developed neighborhood destroyed by years of neglect that led to the Hough Riots of 1966. The size of this property and the growing Health Tech Corridor nearby has interested Wisconsin-based Structures Unlimited to propose turning the site into a hub for the entire neighborhood (Google).

6. Mount Auburn Elementary School
10110 Mt. Auburn Ave., Central
Size/age of site/building: 2 acres, 45,306 square feet, built in 1922
Proposed use: Renovate existing landmark building with apartments.
Purchaser/Developer: TCB Ohio Inc. with Burten Bell Carr CDC
Appraised at $25,000
Awarded at $25,000

7. MLK Jr. High School
1651 E. 71st St., Hough
Size/age of site/building: 11 acres, 167,833 square feet, built in 1971
Proposed use: Renovate and expand existing building with new housing, retail and educational uses.
Purchaser/Developer: Structures Unlimited LLC
Appraised at $880,000
Awarded at $880,000

8. Nathaniel Hawthorne Elementary School
3575 W. 130th St., Jefferson
Size/age of site/building: 2.5 acres, 33,688 square feet, built in 1917/1927
Proposed use: Renovate building with loft apartments.
Purchaser/Developer: Sustainable Community Associates dba Hawthorne Elementary Partners, LLC
Appraised at $45,000
Awarded at $45,000

9. Robert Fulton Elementary School
3291 E. 140th St., Mount Pleasant
Size/age of site/building: 3.5 acres, 68,895 square feet, built in 1929
Proposed use: Renovate building with apartments, surrounded potentially with park space.
Purchaser/Developer: Tober Development Company, LLC
Appraised at $79,000
Awarded at $79,000

10. Stephen E. Howe Elementary School
1000 Lakeview Rd., Glenville
Size/age of site/building: 2.2 acres
Proposed use: Develop vacant land with 46 new low-income, two-story-tall townhomes with two, three or four bedrooms each plus surface parking.
Purchaser/Developer: Revitalization Strategies Group dba RSG Cleveland LLC
Appraised at $120,000
Awarded at $120,000

Central High School is set to become senior apartments at the hands of Beacon Communities of Boston.

Beacon Communities of Boston also chose to redevelop Central High School on East 40th Street in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood. It proposes to renovate the three-story landmark building into 90 senior apartments and amenities to support the management of the property (Google).

Ward 17 City Councilman and planning commission member Charles Slife noted that Ohio law requires surplus public school property be offered to charter schools first, then to the community and then to the open market. He said he was grateful for the opportunity to make sure that the re-use of school properties were all good uses.

“I’m particularly excited about the prospect of rehabilitating historic and very beautiful school buildings,” Slife said.

He also pointed out that a lot of the surplus school sites are in neighborhoods where the tree canopy is limited. He urged the developers to plant large-growth trees rather than just provide smaller ornamental trees as part of their landscaping plans.

“We’re not going to meet our climate (impact) goals if we’re just planting ornamentals,” Slife added.

Nathaniel Hawthorne Elementary School was the only west-side Cleveland school property to make it to the private market.

The only surplus school property on Cleveland’s West Side that made it to the open market was Nathaniel Hawthorne Elementary School on West 130th Street. Sustainable Community Associates of Oberlin, which has built new and repurposed old buildings in Cleveland, intends to repurpose this century-old building into loft apartments (Google).

Commission member Lillian Kuri said the school sites play an important role in providing open spaces as well as recreational spaces in their neighborhoods. She wanted to ensure that those spaces remain accessible and useful to the public after they are transferred to private owners.

Greene responded that most of the proposed plans for the disposed school properties have public access to park-like spaces. Or, they propose to open up their former auditoriums or libraries for public use.

“Each (plan) is unique,” Greene said. “Some of these (proposals) are coming in for requests for land-bank lots to expand the developments and include public spaces. All of these groups will have to come before the planning commission (for design approval) and many of them will have to come to us for funding.”

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