Developer tells Cleveland deal to convert Plain Dealer building into police headquarters was on track, ready to go

September 25, 2018

Developer tells Cleveland deal to convert Plain Dealer building into police headquarters was on track, ready to go

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The developer hired to convert the former downtown home of The Plain Dealer into a headquarters for Cleveland police says that the project was on track and was surprised to hear that the city was backing away. 

In a letter to Mayor Frank Jackson, developer Fred Geis says his team has spent “thousands of hours” working with the city to resolve lease issues in the building and preparing drawings and permits for construction. 

“It is for these reasons we were surprised to unexpectedly see a notice from the city canceling the project without any reasons detailed and within days of our planned closing,” Geis wrote. 

The administration didn’t have an immediate reaction to Geis’ letter when contacted Tuesday afternoon. Jackson’s interim chief of staff, Sharon Dumas, could not be reached for comment. She was listed as receiving a copy of the letter. 

The letter also was sent to City Council President Kevin Kelley and council members Mike Polensek and Matt Zone. Cleveland.com obtained the document through a public records request.  

You can read the letter below. Mobile users can read it via this link.  

On Monday, the Jackson administration made public a letter to Geis’ company, GLP Superior Ltd., informing the company that it “no longer desires” to pursue purchase of the building at 1801 Superior Ave. 

In an interview Tuesday morning with cleveland.com, Jackson wouldn’t say specifically what prompted the decision, saying he wouldn’t negotiate in public.  

But the mayor confirmed the problems were not with the site itself. 

“Sometimes you just can’t make a deal,” Jackson said. “It just doesn’t work for us. ... I just can’t give you the details.” 

Geis’ letter also doesn’t provide details. 

Rather, he describes progress toward closing the project by Nov. 1 and having a new police headquarters ready for full occupancy by next July. 

“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, while providing for a phased occupancy for the majority of the building during the course of the project.” 

Cleveland announced in June it intended to move its police department out of the Justice Center downtown and into the building on Superior, once GLP Superior LTD converted the space.  

The site, more than 8 acres on Superior between East 18th and East 21st streets, formerly housed The Plain Dealer. Among the tenants now are the Council for Economic Opportunities of Greater Cleveland, the YMCA of Greater Cleveland and Advance Ohio/cleveland.com. 

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

The site was selected from among two dozen proposals. The city’s team praised the proposal for the office space that could be converted to a police headquarters relatively quickly, the presence of a parking garage to store vehicles and equipment and the available parking, both for officers and for the public.  

In July, Cleveland City Council approved the project and the hiring of GLP Superior Ltd. to buy and renovate the property. The target for completing the move was next spring, police Chief Calvin Williams has said.  

And while the timetable laid out by Geis in his letter doesn’t hit that goal, it targets significant portions of the campus for occupancy before May 1. 

“The police department’s 100 percent occupancy to occur within approximately 270 days from closing and occupancy in 85 percent of the property within 180 days from closing,” Geis wrote. 

That includes: 

The garage in which the city intended to store vehicles and  equipment. 18,000 square feet in the building’s first floor. 57,000 square feet on the second floor  25,000 square feet on the third floor. 

“As of the beginning of September, we have had a fully negotiated contract with the city that is ready for execution, as well as fully engineered permit drawings submitted and approved by the city’s building department,” Geis said in his letter. 

After the Jackson administration made public its letter to Geis on Monday, City Council President Kevin Kelley said his understanding was that problems cropped up related to the status of tenants in the 1801 Superior building.  

But Geis, in his letter, said that GLP expected to have all issues with tenants settled within 30 days. 

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