by Frank Lewis
Two owners of three adjoining properties to the downtown Mall site are all that’s left to settle snugly in their beds, now that the county commissioners have officially agreed to buy the Public Hall site for $20 million. All that’s left before the compasses start twirling is to get Cleveland Council, which is reviewing the deal, to lend its rubber-stamp to the deal.
Maybe somebody is saying something constructive about all the added expenses the city will be taking on now, or wonder aloud perhaps where the $20 million is going to be stashed. But neveryoumind, lowly taxpayer. All that’s left to do now is cross our fingers and wait … for the announcement that the county administration building will be bought up by the sales tax proceeds too. Two deals in one!
The county’s just coming out now for the potential inclusion of its own HQ into the med-mart mix, after saying nary a word about it for more than a year. But now that the nearly billion-dollar deal with Commissioner Tim Hagan’s family friend, Chris Kennedy of Chicago-based Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., is signed in blood, commissioners were ready to set county administrator James McCafferty loose to start bandying about HQ’s worth as a northern entrance area of the new development. Or maybe a swanky new hotel that only rich people from other places will get to use, huh Dick Jacobs?
(Don’t forget, the commissioners are still sitting on the Ameritrust complex it bought from Jacobs a few years back for $22 million, the one they’ve paid about $11 million more so far, supposedly positioning it for sale. Or something.)
Worry not, reminded McCafferty after Thursday’s meeting: The money to pay for all the property acquisitions — county HQ included, if applicable — would come from the $900 million in bond money the county sales tax hike will raise over two decades to cover all of this anyway. See? So it's practically free! We can't afford not to do it!
So the purchase of the county administration building had always been factored in as a potential expense?
“You have to stay open,” says McCafferty, “but the only way for [a county HQ sale] to happen is if it’s a cheaper option.” Rest assured: Commissioners have their best people on it.
They were hoping you wouldn’t see when they pulled these coins from out of your ass. And they were mostly right. It’s been going on for so long it’s probably started to feel good anyway, huh? — Dan Harkins