The controversy over the proposed Oakwood Commons development reinforces the need for Cleveland Heights to plan for future development, says a local nonprofit leader.
“We’re being forced to react to the developer’s plan because the city of Cleveland Heights does not have a plan,” says Deanna Bremer Fisher, Executive Director of FutureHeights, a nonprofit that promotes community engagement in Cleveland Heights.
“I understand the need for additional tax revenue in our city, but we need to look at a highest-and-best-use study of the development site before proceeding,” she adds.
The city of Cleveland Heights updated its Strategic Development Plan in 2010 for the first time in 17 years. The plan recommends that the city pursue economic development to expand its tax base, which has declined recently due to lower home values, foreclosed homes, and lack of new development. The Strategic Development Plan also recommends that the city study the feasibility of producing a land use Master Plan.
Richard Wong, the Planning Director for the city of Cleveland Heights, says that the city has no position on Oakwood Commons because a proposal has not yet been brought to the city. However, the city’s 2010 Strategic Development Plan states that “redevelopment [of the Oakwood site] for big box commercial uses was strongly opposed by residents in the past and should not be considered.”
The plan adds that land and buildings north of Oakwood Country Club to Mayfield Road should be considered as part of any development plan. This suggests that the city may try to leverage the project to stimulate redevelopment of the older retail area at Warrensville and Mayfield Roads.
First Interstate Properties, the developer of the proposed 154-acre, mixed-use shopping center on the site of the former Oakwood Country Club, recently purchased the portion of the property that is in South Euclid. The Severance Neighborhood Organization, a local citizens group, has questioned the need for additional retail in the area. South Euclid officials have expressed support for the project, arguing that the city needs new retail development and tax revenue.
Mitchell Schneider, President of First Interstate Properties, has an option to purchase the Cleveland Heights portion of Oakwood. Both properties require a zoning change to be developed as retail. Schneider says he hopes to win Cleveland Heights’ approval, but that he could develop the South Euclid property alone if the city refuses.