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Cleveland police HQ will spur, not stifle, Opportunity Corridor development, Mayor Frank Jackson says

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 12/6/2019 By Courtney Astolfi, cleveland.com
a large building: Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says building the new Cleveland police headquarters on Opportunity Corridor will spur economic development. © cleveland.com/cleveland.com/TNS Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says building the new Cleveland police headquarters on Opportunity Corridor will spur economic development.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Building a Cleveland police headquarters on the city’s East Side will drive economic development along the Opportunity Corridor road project, not hamper it, as some critics have suggested, Mayor Frank Jackson said Thursday.

Jackson said his administration has devoted considerable research and planning into ensuring that the police headquarters will fit into a broader plan for bringing private investment and jobs to the impoverished area around Kinsman Road and East 79th Street.

“It will be a catalyst,” he said during a meeting between key members of his administration and cleveland.com editors and reporters.

The selling points, Jackson said, are:

- Building on 12 city-owned acres along a largely vacant stretch of the corridor’s path allays concerns expressed to the administration by potential developers about being the first to build in the area.

- Moving in 600 police officers also allays concerns by potential developers about the safety of the area.

- Having a total of as many as 1,000 people working in the headquarters creates a potential market for retail development.

- Hiring a New York consultant to study the surrounding parcels – many of which are owned by the city or under the city’s control – gives the city a fresh perspective on development potentials.

- Owning or controlling around 75 acres in the area of the headquarters location allows the city to dictate design standards for development along the corridor.

And police Chief Calvin Williams said the Opportunity Corridor location still allows for quick access to highways, major city streets and RTA’s bus routes and rail lines. Many police officers and detectives — those already located in the city’s five district buildings outside of the Justice Center — must already travel downtown to file paperwork or go to court, Williams said.

The administration first revealed its site choice on Nov. 14, which has drawn scrutiny in the weeks since about how the plan squares with the Opportunity Corridor’s long-stated goals of adding jobs and reviving distressed neighborhoods through economic development.

Millions of dollars have been committed toward the boulevard-style, 3.6-mile corridor that will eventually connect Interstate 490 at East 55th Street with University Circle, easing access to areas that have been bypassed by private investment.

Construction began in 2015, and the roadway is expected to be complete by late 2021. Site work and utility work along the boulevard should be completed in 2022.

Jackson said his administration had considered the concerns about impeding economic development before settling on the site and reached out to developers to see what would entice them to invest in the area. The response: developers were concerned about safety and did not want to be the first to build in the area.

Placing the police headquarters at the site solves both issues, Jackson said.

The location won’t inhibit development along the corridor, as the headquarters will sit on 12 acres that are not ideal for industrial uses, Director of Economic Development David Ebersole said.

Jackson said his administration’s “deliberate” approach is in contrast to the siting of the county’s Juvenile Justice Center at Quincy Avenue and East 93rd Street, which he said was built with no substantial economic development strategy for the surrounding area.

Freddy Collier, the city’s planning director, said the city can regulate the types and forms of buildings placed along the corridor because it owns or controls more than 75 acres in the area. That, combined with a welcoming design for the headquarters, will allow the city to achieve a walkable, connected environment that encourages people to live, work, shop and move through the neighborhood, he said.

The city borrowed around $60 million when it intended to move the headquarters to the former Plain Dealer building at 1801 Superior Avenue, now home to cleveland.com. Finance Director Sharon Dumas said Thursday believes that is enough money to construct a basic headquarters. The city will consider whether it wants to add additional buildings, floors or parking lots at a later date, though Jackson prefers building the campus at one time. Dumas said multiple combinations and plans will be considered.

Jackson and his administrators told cleveland.com that they had intended to present their reasoning for the site choice to City Council last Monday, but the hearing was postponed. The administration also was prepared to discuss the site selection at an earlier City Council committee meeting, but council members did not ask for specifics about the plan’s relation to economic development along Opportunity Corridor, Dumas said.

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