AP NEWS

If Cleveland police headquarters deal falls through, City Council will be quizzing administration to know why

September 26, 2018

If Cleveland police headquarters deal falls through, City Council will be quizzing administration to know why

CLEVELAND, Ohio – If the deal to move police headquarters to The Plain Dealer’s former downtown offices collapses, City Council will ask what went wrong in public hearings, Council President Kevin Kelley said Wednesday. 

Kelley, in an interview with cleveland.com, said members of council were surprised Monday to learn that the city had sent developer Fred Geis a letter backing out of the deal. 

If the deal truly is dead, then City Council will want to know why before addressing what happens next, Kelley said. In addition, constituents have been asking what’s going on. 

“We really thought the administration did a good job with the site selection,” Kelley said. “This was clearly the right choice as it was presented to us.” 

The project was a $60 million deal that included the purchase and alteration of the building at 1801 Superior Ave.. The package included $19.5 million to purchase the property from The Plain Dealer Publishing Co., with some negotiating still to come. 

Hearings likely would be held by council’s Safety Committee, which has oversight of police operations. Councilman Matt Zone, chair of that committee, was unavailable for comment. 

The Finance Committee also would weigh in on any new legislation. Kelley chairs that committee. 

Kelley said no hearings would take place until after the fate of the project is clear. Kelley, Mayor Frank Jackson and others still contend that site is best suited to become the new headquarters. 

“If there are negotiations, I don’t want to interfere or be a part of that in any way,” Kelley said. “Council’s role is to authorize the funds. We don’t want to interfere with negotiations or be involved.” 

The city selected the site from about two dozen in and around downtown as part of its efforts to close its jail and move out of the Justice Center.  

In July, City Council approved hiring GLP Superior Ltd., led by Geis, to acquire the property and convert it into a new police headquarters. 

The administration and council members praised the site. It has office space that could quickly be converted to a police headquarters, a parking garage to store vehicles and equipment and parking that would benefit both officers and the public.  

If the site does fall through, the city would start its search anew, Jackson said in an interview Tuesday. But that could wind up being much more expensive. 

Among the other sites, the next most cost effective was the old Third District headquarters building at 2001 Payne Ave. That site, which would require modification and expansion, was proposed by two separate developers at projected costs of $80 million and $93.4 million.  

Jackson noted Tuesday that the city might be able to lower those estimates, just as it was able to work with Geis to lower GLP’s bid from $72 million to $60 million for the 1801 Superior site.   

As part of the deal, GLP was required to negotiate departure terms with tenants leasing office space in the building. Among those tenants are the Council for Economic Opportunities of Greater Cleveland, the YMCA of Greater Cleveland and Advance Ohio/cleveland.com. 

But on Monday, the Jackson administration made public a letter to Geis dated Sept. 18 that indicated the city was backing out of the deal. The letter was signed by Jackson’s director of capital projects, Matthew Spronz. 

“At this time the City of Cleveland no longer desires to pursue the purchase of 1801 Superior Avenue property for the Cleveland Division of Police Headquarters with GLP Superior LTD. Thank you for working with the city on this important project,” Spronz wrote in the letter. 

Jackson wouldn’t say specifically Tuesday what prompted the city to send the letter.  

Geis replied Monday with a letter of his own, saying the project was on track and nearly ready to close. The city’s letter, he said, was a surprise. 

“GLP Superior plans to have formal agreements with the existing tenants [at 1801 Superior] by Oct. 24, 2018,” Geis wrote. “Assuming the city and GLP close on Nov. 1, 2018, the police headquarters at 1801 Superior will be ready for full occupancy by July 29, 2019.” 

The move from the Justice Center would culminate years of work by the city to get out of the jail business. In June 2017, City Council approved closing the jail and paying Cuyahoga County to handle the city’s prisoners. 

The deal allowed the city to sell the police headquarters building to the county for $9.25 million. The county will take title of the property Oct. 1. After that, the city can remain in its offices, but will pay the county a monthly rent of $10 a square foot. 

Jackson has made clear he wants the city to avoid as much of the rental costs as possible. 

That means some police units will have to move out of the Justice Center, regardless of where the police headquarters is relocated. Some offices will be in temporary quarters around the city. 

AP RADIO
Update hourly