County courthouse to have new address?

The days of going to the 1976-built, 25-story Justice Center tower in Downtown Cleveland to attend a hearing at Cleveland Municipal Court or the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas appear to be numbered. Also at the Justice Center is the Cleveland Division of Police, seen at left, and the two jail blocks behind it. Those three buildings may be demolished after the police and jails leave. If the courthouse tower survives, it would likely have a new purpose (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Council may OK other big projects starting Tuesday


A Cuyahoga County committee has reportedly rejected all but one of the proposals that could have kept a Consolidated Courthouse at the current site of Downtown Cleveland’s existing Justice Center. NEOtrans has learned that, of the four surviving proposals, one involves a complicated, time-consuming double-move of courthouse functions from the current site and back again. If rejected, it would end a five-decade run of the Justice Center site as a law enforcement, adjudication and penal facility and set the stage for its redevelopment.

A source familiar with the actions of an ad hoc committee evaluating sites for the new Consolidated Courthouse said on the condition of anonymity that three respondents wanting to provide the facility were notified they were no longer in the running. At this stage of progress by the committee, the source said it hopes to make a final recommendation on the winning candidate(s), its project and site in mid-summer.

The source said the three rejected candidates are Lincoln Property Company Commercial LLC, doing business as Chicago-based Lincoln Property Company; U.S. Realty Advisors of New York City, and DMD Development Group based in North Olmsted. Lincoln Property Co. and U.S. Realty Advisors were apparently rejected because their proposals were too vague and didn’t address where a new or renovated Consolidated Courthouse would be located.

DMD was informed in January that it was no longer in consideration, as reported by NEOtrans, due to a long timeline necessary to move forward on its proposal. That plan involved waiting for the new Cleveland police headquarters and jail to be built, with the latter project taking up to six years to complete. More on the jail project later in this article.

Only then could the two existing jail blocks be demolished, with the rest of the existing Justice Center complex to follow. The Justice Center is set on 7 acres bounded by Ontario and West 3rd streets, plus St. Clair and Lakeside avenues. DMD wanted to redevelop the site with historic replica buildings from Cleveland’s past to provide the new courthouse facilities totaling 900,000 square feet to meet the county’s needs.

An unofficial massing of the current Justice Center site if the 420-foot-tall courthouse tower was retained but gutted down to the superstructure and rebuilt for a new use with the rest of the site redeveloped with meeting, collaboration, research and/or technology facilities plus greenspaces (Ian McDaniel).

Four proposals reportedly remain in contention. Only one of them proposes redeveloping the existing Justice Center site. Two sources say DBL Development LLC wants to introduce mixed uses to the site that could include expanding the convention center on to at least a portion of the land, once it is cleared of Justice Center uses. It would also require some new construction for additional courthouse operations as the current 675,887-square-foot tower is too small to accommodate the 893,120 square feet of desired space in the county’s request for proposals.

DBL’s proposal includes renovating the 25-story courthouse tower and returning the courthouse uses to it. In a time-consulting effort that could complicate public services, all courthouse functions would be required to move twice by providing a temporary space during renovation. Nearly five years ago, the county’s facilities advisor Project Management Consultants said that, of the four main structures at the Justice Center, the court tower was in the second-worst condition. Only the police headquarters was in worse shape.

DBL’s only official person is Rico Pietro, a principal at real estate brokerage Cushman and Wakefield. But NEOtrans has learned the DBL team also includes Ari Maron of Cleveland-based MRN Ltd. and Erik Loomis, president of Cleveland-based construction firm Loomis Companies. Both firms have much experience with new construction and renovation-repurposing of historic buildings. It is possible that the county could recommend DBL in addition to one of the other three respondents. But it is more likely that if DBL’s proposal is not accepted, a second RFP for the sale of the Justice Center site may be issued, the source said.

Only one of the respondents has proposed a new-construction courthouse. Twenty-One Six Development LLC wants to build new in “The Pit” next to the lakefront railroad tracks, between West 3rd and West 9th streets. Twenty-One Six is led by Beachwood-based TurnDev which is developing the new Cleveland police headquarters.

A courthouse facility located at or close to the existing Justice Center is likely to score higher. The Pit is on the other side of Fort Huntington Park from the Justice Center and the old county courthouse that may retain the 8th District Court of Appeals. Also, next to The Pit is another property on the county’s offer sheet — the historic Courthouse Square offices, 310 W. Lakeside Ave.

Another unofficial massing showing what 900,000 square feet of office and courthouse space could look like if built atop structured parking in The Pit near downtown’s lakefront. However, there are regulations about having public parking below court facilities (Ian McDaniel).

Two other proposals involve renovations. Cleveland-based Millennia Companies’ affiliate HH Cleveland Huntington LP is offering its historic, 1.3-million-square-foot vacant building at 925 Euclid Ave. Detroit-based Bedrock Real Estate’s affiliate Sapphire Acquisitions LLC proposes renovating the Landmark Office Building which will continue to be Sherwin-Williams’ headquarters into 2025 as construction on its new headquarters is apparently behind schedule.

NEOtrans has learned that county officials and their courthouse consultants at CBRE Group have toured all candidate sites and interviewed their representatives. But all parties associated with the courthouse project are under non-disclosure agreements and cannot discuss their projects or their progress publicly.

“Cuyahoga County has not made any decisions regarding the use of the courthouse property,” said county Communications Director Kelly Woodard. “We are continuing to work with all stakeholders and do our due diligence by considering all proposals submitted, including proposals that contemplate renovating the current courthouse building.”

Construction funding for the new Consolidated Courthouse facility, costing perhaps $400 million to $700 million, will come from a 40-year, quarter-percent sales tax extension that was narrowly passed 6-5 by Cuyahoga County Council in December. The funding will also support construction of a new $750 million Cuyahoga County Central Services Campus, formerly called the consolidated jail. It may be launched by a council vote due this week.

Demolition, leveling and other preparations of the 72-acre site at Interstate 480 and Transportation Boulevard in Garfield Heights could get started with the Cuyahoga County Council’s passage of a $33.353 million design/build contract with Gilbane Building Company. The global construction firm is based in Providence, RI and has an office in Downtown Cleveland.

This graphic is an official massing showing what the new Cuyahoga County Central Services Campus could look like in Garfield Heights, overlooking Valley View (Cuyahoga County).

About $30 million of the contract with Gilbane will be for site preparations with the remainder for final engineering and construction management services. Detailed designs of the Central Services Campus have yet to be produced publicly but are expected in the coming months.

Also on Tuesday, council may give final approval of extending an owner’s representative contract with Project Management Consultants of Cleveland until May 31, 2025 so the firm can represent the county in managing the jail project.

The firm has represented the county on multiple big projects in the 21st century — the county’s administrative headquarters, Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland, and Hilton Cleveland Downtown — and helped keep each on budget or under.

Deed to the site for the Central Services Campus hasn’t transferred yet. County records show title to the property remains in the hands of Craig Realty Group-Cleveland LLC. Council in September 2023 authorized spending $38.7 million in federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act to buy the land.

By contrast, council is just beginning deliberations on a request by the Ronayne Administration to spend up to $91 million over 17 years for a new site for the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections (BOE). NEOtrans was first to report that the BOE was moving from its site of 67 years, where it was likely moving and the official confirmation of it.

Floor plans of the first level at 1801 Superior Ave. after temporary improvements are made to accommodate the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections and early voting, including a queue for up to 500 voters (K2M Design).

The BOE’s relocation to the former Plain Dealer Plaza, 1801 Superior Ave., is being sought to provide more space for in-person voting and enhanced on-site voter parking. It will also provide a site for certain offices of the Department of Health and Human Services, county officials said. The lease of the 24-year-old building, owned by an affiliate of Cleveland-based Industrial Commercial Properties LLC, would begin on July 1 of this year and end June 3, 2041.

The $91 million for the new location includes $49.68 million ($2.92 million per year) for the lease, estimated utilities payments of $10.3 million (605,882 average per year), operating expenses of $27.55 million ($1.62 million average per year), initial capital expenditures of $550,000, management fees of $2 million, plus a general contingency of $894,072 for other related potential costs and expenses, the BOE relocation legislation reads.

Because county officials wanted to finalize a deal for a new BOE location at the start of this year, temporary site improvements will be done so that early voting for the busy presidential election can be accommodated at 1801 Superior as soon as possible, with final renovations to follow. Planning documents note “However, the exigencies of time render it impracticable to effectuate said solution in advance. In order to accommodate legal requirements for the November 2024 election, the referenced temporary solution is required.”

K2M Design of Cleveland submitted a building permit application to the city of Cleveland last week for $30,000 worth of work — demolition of two interior walls and the addition of electrical power and data lines to the building, public records show. That will create a larger open space inside the building for the queuing of up to 500 people for early voting, “taking into account historical election data and voter turnout,” plans show.

Relocation of county facilities to 1801 Superior is funded by 61 percent from the county’s general fund and 39 percent from Health and Human Service levy funds, the BOE lease legislation notes. Last month, county voters easily passed a renewal of the Health and Human Service levy with 71 percent voting in support of it.


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