Three redevelopments to boost Cleveland’s Lee-Harvard

These three catalytic redevelopment sites identified in the Lee-Harvard Community Master Plan are the subject of a request for qualifications from the city to attract investment in developing them. They are: 1. Miles Avenue land bank lots; 2. ex-Gracemount School site; and 3. the John F. Kennedy High and Recreation Center campus (HCSC). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

New Lee-Harvard Master Plan to guide investment

Three large redevelopment sites totaling nearly 20 acres in Cleveland’s Lee-Harvard neighborhood are the subject of city efforts to focus investment on them. The effort is intended to reverse decades of disinvestment that has occurred on Cleveland’s southeast side by producing jobs, new housing and catalyzing more investment. In fact, there’s some evidence that such a reversal is already underway.

The pending redevelopment effort is led by Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, born and raised on the city’s southeast side in the neighboring Mt. Pleasant area. But the interest in reversing the neighborhood’s fortunes is broader than that.

Community meetings to shape the Lee-Harvard development master plan were attended by more than 100 people at every gathering. They provided input to move the community forward, said planning officials. The Cleveland Planning Commission adopted the master plan on March 1. Now the city is moving quickly to implement it.

On Thursday, the city issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to hire professional real estate development project teams to redevelop the three sites as part of Bibb’s Southeast Side Promise initiative. The three vacant sites open for redevelopment are:

  • Former Gracemount School site — 16200 Glendale Avenue, measuring 3 acres;
  • Former John F. Kennedy High School and Recreation Center campus — 17100-17300 Harvard Ave., totaling 14 acres; and
  • A dozen land bank parcels — Miles Avenue just east of Lee Road totaling 1.7 acres.

Concepts from the Lee-Harvard Community Master Plan for redeveloping the John F. Kennedy High School and Recreation Center campus offer perhaps the biggest opportunity due to the scale of the site and its proximity to the Lee-Harvard Shopping Center (HCSC).

The JFK High School and Recreation Center were demolished last fall. This week’s RFQ was preceded by a request for expressions of interest issued in October 2023, but only for the JFK site. A decision was made to expand that offer with more sites nearby. The master plan envisioned the JFK site as a mixed-use development with retail, multi-family housing, townhomes and greenspace. It is located next to the Lee-Harvard Shopping Center.

The former Gracemount School site is viewed as a mix of single-family or townhomes surrounding a public park. The Miles Avenue land bank parcels could either be single-family homes or a multi-family building. The master plan also suggested redeveloping the faded light-industrial area on the opposite side of the street, on the south side of Miles.

Teams are invited to submit their qualifications, alongside brief site-specific redevelopment project visions for consideration by an evaluation team comprised of representatives of the city and Harvard Community Services Center (HCSC), the area’s community development corporation. Project teams will be invited to commence due diligence for the selected site upon selection in June through the RFQ process.

“When Mayor Bibb established the redevelopment of the southeast side of Cleveland as a priority, he did so with a clear understanding that the more than three decades of disinvestment had eroded the quality of life of residents for too long,” said Marvin Owens, senior strategist for the southeast side, in a written statement.

Structural development of the Gracemount School site was limited to housing, although different types of residential were suggested as was their placement on the site shared with a public greenspace (HCSC).

This initial RFQ is intended for prospective partners, investors, developers, builders and leaders to pursue the redevelopment and revitalization of the southeast side. Elaine Gohlstin, president and CEO of the Harvard Community Services Center, expressed her gratitude to its partners and to residents of the community for their work in developing the Lee-Harvard masterplan.

“With Mayor Bibb’s priority on the southeast side, it has never been more important to ensure that residents and businesses have a voice in how funds are invested in their neighborhood,” Gohlstin said. “HCSC initiated the Lee-Harvard Community Master Plan to create a community-driven vision for the neighborhood and guide the developments in this Request for Qualifications.”

RFQ responses will be evaluated based on their alignment with the vision, guiding principles and redevelopment scenarios outlined in the community master plan, she said. Project teams will also be expected to build from engagement efforts from the planning process as they design their projects.

“This RFQ is a direct response to our work on the Lee-Harvard Community Master Plan in partnership with Harvard Community Services Center,” said Alyssa Hernandez, the city’s director of community development. “With a plan and vision that is rooted in community voice and value, we are now taking direct steps to implement the plan by structuring these proactive, catalytic redevelopment opportunities.”

Although the Miles Avenue lots is the smallest of the three redevelopment sites in the city’s request for qualifications and would likely be residential, such as this conceptual multifamily building, it could grow in the future to include redevelopment of a faded light-industrial area on the south side of Miles (HCSC).

Councilman Joseph Jones, who represents Cleveland’s Ward 1 said he shares the enthusiasm for this opportunity to build on a recent shift in Lee-Harvard’s momentum.

“Over the last several years, Ward 1 has been growing,” he noted. “There have been major investments in our community for projects that include the former John F. Kennedy High School site, the Frederick Douglass Neighborhood Resource and Recreation Center, and millions invested in infrastructure work,” Jones said.

“Property values have also risen over the last several years, making our community a very attractive neighborhood and a great place to work, live, play and invest in housing development,” he explained.

Qualifications will be accepted by the city from until May 20 with selection of a development team no later than June 21, 2024. The submission process and evaluation criteria can be found on pages 28-29 of the RFQ. To learn more about this and other asset redevelopment projects, see the full RFQ at the city’s Asset Redevelopment Web page.


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