City, CMSD agree to land swap that will create new school in Cudell, development opportunities

The former Watterson Lake school in Detroit Shoreway will be torn down for future development.

The former Watterson Lake school in Detroit Shoreway will be torn down for future development.

A property exchange agreement between the city of Cleveland and Cleveland Metropolitan School District will pave the way for a new Marion C. Seltzer Elementary School at Cudell Commons and open up development opportunities on the east and west sides.

Cleveland City Council’s Development, Planning and Sustainability Committee met Monday to approve authorization of a property exchange agreement, lease and shared use agreement for the properties (view the executive summary here). The deal, which still needs to be approved by the full council and signed by Mayor Frank Jackson, will allow construction of the new Marion C. Seltzer school on city-owned land at Cudell Commons at 1910 West Boulevard. It will also allow the existing school to remain open during construction. The existing Tamir Rice memorial, Cudell Arts building, and clock tower will not be affected. As part of the agreement, the city and CMSD will share a parking lot and future recreation amenities at the new school.

Additionally, the city will take ownership of the 2.6 acre Watterson Lake school site at 1422 W. 74th St. in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. CMSD will tear down the building and grade and seed the property and a public input process will help to determine its future use. In Glenville, the city will obtain the 4.6 acre Harry E. Davis school at 10713 Churchill Ave., which will be razed to accommodate the 52-unit Churchill Gateway affordable housing project.

“We’ve been meeting with CMSD every two weeks since 2015,” Jamie DeRosa, the city’s commissioner of real estate, told DPS. “We’ve been looking at how CMSD’s capital plan can fit with the city’s long-term planning efforts, and how we can best reutilize unneeded school real estate.”

Watterson Lake will be torn down, graded and seeded by CMSD. The city will be responsible for tearing down Harry E. Davis and building a road down the middle. Churchill Commons will occupy half of the site, and the city, Conwell and local community development corporation Famicos Inc. are still examining options for the remainder.

“This is a big stinkin’ deal,” said Ward 15 council member Jenny Spencer of the Watterson-Lake site in the Gordon Square Arts District. “It’s a tract of prominent land in a burgeoning market area with a lot of different needs, not the least of which is equity.”

Spencer said she’d employ an an equitable, bottom-up community involvement process to engage residents in collaboration with Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, including both virtual and in-person feedback opportunities. “The process needs to maximize access and equity,” she said.

Spencer said her top three priorities right now are affordable and middle market units; aging-in-place or accessible housing; and artist housing. “It’s a question of how to meet different needs that are not being met by private activity alone,” she said. “This is an opportunity infuse equity into development” because the city has site control, she said.

A rendering of the Churchill Gateway project.

A rendering of the Churchill Gateway project.

In Glenville, Ward 9 councilman Kevin Conwell was equally enthused about Churchill Gateway, a 52-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three bedroom units affordable to residents earning at or below 60 percent of area median income (AMI).

“We wanted to do development with the residents, and they had total input,” he said of the project, which will be developed by the NRP Group. “You need a mix of affordable and high-scale homes in the community.”

The Churchill Commons project will also include a 2,500 square foot community center to be managed collaboratively by the city, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and University Hospitals.

“We workin’ it, man,” said Conwell, emphasizing the project’s proximity to the Glenvillage development, which was built as part of Mayor Jackson’s neighborhood transformation plan. “COVID hit us hard, but we’re starting to build back up again.”

Watch Cleveland City Council meetings on Youtube here and follow the work of CLE Documenters here.

Lee Chilcote is a freelance writer and editor of The Land.

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