Last night the Cuyahoga County Council unanimously approved the sale of the downtown Ameritrust building to a Northeast Ohio development firm. The sale is part of a multimillion-dollar deal to build a new county headquarters. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports.
In 2005, Cuyahoga County bought the Ameritrust building at East 9th between Euclid and Prospect. It planned to make the building its headquarters. The county sank more than $40 million into buying the building and removing asbestos.
It never moved in.
Last night, all 11 members of the county council voted to sell the building to Geis Cos. in Streetsboro. Geis will pay $27 million for what is actually a complex that includes a historic rotunda, a 29-story tower and parking facilities. As part of the deal, Geis will build a new headquarters next door that the county will lease.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald says the competitive bid process got taxpayers a good deal. Plus, he’s glad to get the building off the public’s hands.
FITZGERALD: “I felt like I had a particular duty to try to clean up this Ameritrust fiasco that was mired in bad decision-making, corruption and everything else. So I think this is a good symbol of how government can work the right way.”
The county plans to move in in 2014, and to pay about $6.7 million a year in rent. After 26 years, the county can buy the building for $1.
Councilman Jack Schron told the developer that it has a responsibility, in his words, “to do it right.”
SCHRON: “This will be the most visible symbol of what we’re doing in this new county, with a new county government. As we move forward, it will be a statement not only for today but tomorrow and in the future for years and years to come.”
Another bidder, Optima Ventures, had tried to convince FitzGerald and the council that its offer would be cheaper. But the council stood by the judgment of the county’s consultant that Geis’s proposal was the better deal.