Severance Center remake in the works

Entrance to Severance Town Center on Mayfield Road. Just beyond is the vacant Front Stage Multiplex Theater and several large, vacant retail spaces. Following the signing of a master development agreement, it’s possible that some or all of Severance Town Center may be demolished and turned into a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood of housing, retail and restaurants (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

City, property owner, developer sign development pact

Severance Town Center is considered by Cleveland Heights Mayor Kahlil Seren as his community’s greatest development opportunity and challenge. That challenge has been taken on by MPACT Collective of Long Island, NY by signing a master developer agreement with Namdar Realty Group which owns much of the underutilized property.

The deal gives MPACT development rights over the Severance site, 3640 Mayfield Rd. allowing the two companies to partner on its redevelopment. Seren announced the agreement today and called it an opportunity to overcome a shortage of bright spots on Severance’s horizon.

“It’s a unique asset for our city,” Seren said in a written statement. “Few built-out communities like ours have the chance to reimagine and revitalize 40 contiguous acres of underutilized property in the heart of their cities. The partnership between Namdar and MPACT is the first significant step towards redeveloping Severance in almost a decade and represents a huge opportunity for Cleveland Heights.”

Namdar bought Severance Town Center’s 56 acres for $10.5 million in 2016 and then split off 10 acres for the Home Depot store. That parcel sold for $13.7 million in 2019 to Nyomi Investments LLC of California which turned around and sold it in 2022 for $17.15 million to LPB-HD LLC of Maryland, Cuyahoga County records show.

“I’m grateful to Namdar for their collaboration, and I’m excited they’ve chosen MPACT Collective to work with on the project,” he noted.

The northeast end of Severance Town Center, closest to Mayfield Road, is its most derelict. This was the site of the Front Stage Multiplex Theater that closed in 2022 has been vacant since then (Google).

“If you have the will and the creativity of the community and city, you can make amazing things happen,” MPACT’s Managing Partner Sean McLean told city officials recently, Selen said.

Seren said his administration began talking with MPACT more than a year ago. He explained that his staff welcomed MPACT because their approach to development seemed to fit what Cleveland Heights needed for a potential project that’s as large and important as Severance.

They developer invested nine months of due diligence before concluding Severance was a project they wanted to take on. During that time, Seren said he’s become more persuaded they’re right for Cleveland Heights.

As a Master Developer, MPACT doesn’t develop a property alone, Seren added. From the outset, they bring on partners — other firms, investors and the surrounding community. He said they organize an ongoing, transparent conversation to build trust among their partners and stakeholders.

“And they focus this conversation on three priorities: developing a shared vision that reflects the surrounding community’s interests and desires, creating the greatest value possible from the property, and ensuring the project is financially viable,” the mayor explained.

The reverse side of the theater has been in worse shape for more than a decade, with multiple vacant retail spaces (Google).

MPACT’s business model focuses on finding high-challenge, large-scale properties and putting them to their highest and best use. Seren said the company has repeatedly succeeded in developing large, complex properties when others have failed.

“The results they’ve achieved in other communities speak for themselves,” he said. “The majority of their projects have resulted in mixed-use, walkable environments that include housing and retail. They build transformative projects that reflect the best of their surrounding communities.”

Like many of their large development projects in Greater New York, MPACT staff looks for sites with proximity and connectivity to economic engines, often developing under the name Renaissance Downtowns.

One of Ohio’s fastest-growing economic engines is just 2 miles west in the University Circle area — home of Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University and spin-off businesses resulting from new innovations.

The most vibrant part of Severance Town Center is the southwest end that is anchored by Dave’s Market grocery store and the Home Depot (Google).

“Taking advantage of Severance’s potential, however, hasn’t been easy,” Selen said. “Despite the city’s best efforts, the cost, risk, and complexity of redeveloping Severance have deterred potential investors. Other than the ongoing commitment of Dave’s and Home Depot and MetroHealth’s multi-million-dollar investment in its new Behavioral Health Center, there have been few bright spots on Severance’s horizon.”

One of those challenges is the Namdar-owned Front Stage Multiplex Theater that closed in 2022 and has sat empty ever since. The redevelopment efforts will have to work around the Home Depot store at the other end of the retail complex that’s not owned by Namdar.

Because of that, this 10-acre parcel is not part of the development agreement with MPACT. Namdar is part of a partnership that bought the 200 Public Square skyscraper in Downtown Cleveland earlier this year.

The property on which Severance sets has gone through many lives. It was the 161-acre estate of John Severance who lived from 1863-1936 and later was the home of his nephew, Severance Millikin. The property was sold in 1960 and was developed as one of the first indoor shopping malls in the country. It later was surrounded by residential and office buildings including City Hall while the mall was redeveloped as a retail “power center.”


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