A screenshot from Zoom of members of the Development, Planning & Sustainability Committee meeting on Oct. 17.
Members of the Development, Planning & Sustainability Committee meet with Building and Housing staff on Oct. 17. Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube

Covered by Documenters Marcy Clark (notes) and Timothy Zelina (live-tweets)

Vacant no more

City Council’s Development, Planning and Sustainability committee approved the next step in a project to breathe new life into Erieview Tower in downtown Cleveland. The project will cost $217 million and include improvements to approximately 300,000 square feet of office space. 

James Kassouf, the developer whose family owns 25 acres of downtown real estate, is requesting a tax increment financing plan (TIF) to help fund the project. Approval of the TIF will require a separate piece of legislation.

The estimated value of the TIF is $1.6 million, according to Robin Brown, a project manager for the City of Cleveland.

“We have an opportunity to largely convert this building from 80% vacant into a hotel, residential, and office, which is consistent with reimagining the downtown plan,” said Brown.

Previously used as office space, the new plan includes luxury-branded hotel rooms, apartments, a spa and a revitalized Galleria. Construction is set to start in early 2024, according to the project team.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF): A public financing method that is used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure and other community improvement projects.
A definition card for tax increment financing (TIF). Credit: Signal Cleveland

Staffing troubles

Ward 10 Council Member Anthony Hairston asked why the headcount remains down at the Department of Building and Housing despite budgeting for new positions.

Sally Martin O’Toole, department director, said that it’s been a “tremendous challenge” to attract and retain staff because of low pay. If Residents First passes, the department can hire more inspectors, according to O’Toole.

Settling for citations

Officials expressed concerns about the lack of accountability for business owners failing to take care of their buildings. 

Right now, the city can issue citations but not fines, according to Chief Building Officer Tom Vanover.

If businesses ignore citations, court proceedings begin and judges can issue fines. But, out-of-town landlords often don’t show up to court, O’Toole added. Residents First would also let the city issue civil fines upfront, Vanover said. 

Read more from Documenter Marcy Clark:

Read the live-tweet thread from Documenter Timothy Zelina:

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Service Journalism Reporter (she/her)
Dakotah is a journalist and audio producer dedicated to untangling bureaucracy and providing power (information) to the people of Cleveland. She spent 10 years on the frontlines of direct service working with youth and system-impacted communities before receiving her master's in media advocacy from Northeastern University. Dakotah is part of the Community team whose mission is to listen and amplify the issues Clevelanders care about most.

Cleveland Documenters pays and trains people to cover public meetings where government officials discuss important issues and decide how to spend taxpayer money.