NEW COMMISSION ALERT!
Hold on to your wallets: Another costly downtown development plan is on the table, and once again our wizened leaders have determined:
1) haste is essential, and
2) don’t worry where the money comes from.
In early June, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson announced he was convening a new Group Plan Commission to reconsider the work of the original Group Plan Commission, formed in 1903 to design Cleveland’s mall and the surrounding government buildings. The original commission consisted of three of the era’s top architects, which would seem a logical assemblage of talent to plot a noble city’s future landscape.
In keeping with the region’s growing need to suck every last dime from its populace, the new commission consists of all your favorite power players who’ve been fighting for control of downtown — and your money! — for decades.
The 15-player roster, chaired by Cleveland planning director Anthony Coyne, includes representatives from Forest City Enterprises, Jacobs Real Estate, Ernst and Young, KeyBank, PNC Bank, the Cleveland and Gund Foundations, and brass from your Cleveland Indians, Cavaliers, and Browns. There’s also one architect and a land-use expert, but nobody whose own fortune isn’t riding on the commission’s eventual decree.
Last week’s initial meeting featured an upbeat presentation from Coyne about connecting all the shiny new downtown projects, along with the admonition that “we’re trying to get something accomplished by the end of the year,” and “If we don’t take advantage of catalytic opportunities, we will miss huge opportunities for generations to come.” They would be welcome words at any Tribe or Browns press conference, but not so much for the architects of Cleveland’s next century.
So far, the vision has no price tag. “We don’t know what this is going to cost, but we have to be creative and look at all opportunities,” says Coyne, adding that as much as half the money could come from private sources.
He didn’t say where the other half will come from, but perhaps this would be a wise juncture to introduce the cautionary lesson provided by the first building constructed as part of the original Group Plan: The 1912 Federal Building, now the Metzenbaum Courthouse, which houses the bankruptcy court.