by Frank Lewis
Oh. We see now.
The machinations to pave a failsafe path to a brand-new Cuyahoga County headquarters complex — a vexing financial hurdle to justify when there are convention centers to build — has just been set in ink for all to see. All you have to do is connect the dots to see the giant tableau of downtown developer Dick Jacobs spooning his old lap dog, Commissioner Tim Hagan, spooning his old family friend, Merchandise Mart Properties president Christopher Kennedy, who county residents are gifting more than a half-billion in Hagan’s sales-tax increase to give us an upswing in downtown pedestrian traffic.
But hey! The economy has tanked. Shovels must fly, and for what isn’t nearly as important as for whom.
Cuyahoga County commissioners insist on the downtown Mall site for a new convention center and medical mart. Fine. We know: a lot of good reasons. Forest City’s a bunch of dicks. We got you. Longtime Hagan-backer Jacobs’ Key Tower interests are right across the street. Great.
So last week, they sealed the $20 million deal with Cleveland’s Daddy Frank, who found a way for the city to stay solvent in the short term in exchange for creating a potentially bigger hole to fill down the road in terms of office space and income-generation potential. Who knows? Attendance at Public Hall events might just blow up once the pedestrian renaissance kicks off!
Then the commissioners said they have to find a way to get three other property owners on board to amass the land they’ll need to get MMPI started in the coming year with whichever designers and constructions firms they deem worthy of the Camelot mystique. (Just a guess: They’ll be from Chicago.)
This would avoid the need to give county headquarters to MMPI for a song. “We’re not going to be held up by those three property owners, period,” Hagan told the PD for its developmentally progressive front-page story. The story’s point: County headquarters will probably have to move anyway, what with all this and that, so county workers will have to go here or go there — or else this or that …
In other words: Another added expense of this whole thing will be the need to keep the county’s employees somewhere else in perpetuity. Shouldn’t be that expensive, right?
“Nobody’s going to want this building here,” county administrator James McCafferty noted in the PD. If they say so.
Commissioners were deep in executive session on Tuesday and unavailable for comment by press time. Maybe they’re making plans to do something with that white elephant that ex-Tribe owner Dick Jacobs already sold them a few years back for a new HQ. You know: the long-empty Cleveland Trust complex that cost $22 million just to buy and has since cost taxpayers another $13 million for the clean-up that Jacobs should have done before he sold it.
Should Hagan and company have made sure that happened? Should he have been more forthcoming about the need to pay for a new county headquarters during the convention center planning? You’re damn right he should have. But as Hagan is fond of saying: “How do people think things get done around here?”
And as Jacobs is fond of saying: Thanks, Tim. For everything … today, yesterday and tomorrow. — Dan Harkins