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Civic Leaders Cautious About Convention Center/Medical Mart Project

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 5:17 PM

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A group of civic leaders have affirmed their support of Cuyahoga County's plan to build a new convention center and medical mart on Cleveland's downtown Mall B, but at the same time say they are still vetting the suitability of the site for the project. ideastream's Bill Rice reports.

Two weeks ago, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan counted out a proposal – seemingly once and for all - by developer Forest City Enterprises to build the dual purpose center on its property behind Tower City.  Merchandise Mart properties Inc., the county’s private partner in the project, had decided on Mall B, where the current convention center sits, as the chosen site.  All that needed to happen from there on was to wrap up negotiations on that site with the city of Cleveland, which owns it.  But Tuesday, Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson emphasized that he would hold the County and MMPI to meeting a series of conditions before agreeing to proceed on the mall site – conditions like fair compensation to the city for use of the site, resolving potential conflicts between benefits to the public and MMPI, and that the facility provide enough space to meet the standards of the convention business. 

Standing with Jackson was, among others, the President of the Greater Cleveland Partnership – Joe Roman – who said his group also supports the project, but wants to be sure that the benefits are maximized. 

Roman:  “And what the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s biggest concern and biggest interest is that the way we finalize this deal and the development agreement associated with this deal can make the most money for the most people.”

Roman in the past has backed the site behind Tower City for the convention center.  And Martin Zanotti, head of the Cuyahoga County Mayors and Managers Association, believes Forest City’s argument that building at the Tower City site would be cheaper may have merit. 

Zanotti:  “We still believe the question should be asked and answered, and that is: is there enough of a question around it as to whether there should be an independent analysis on the perceived price difference.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Jackson acknowledged that Mall B is, at present anyway, the chosen site for the convention center project, said he’s continuing to negotiate with the county to proceed with the plan. 

Bill Rice, 90.3

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