Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 8:13 AM
The Medical Mart project in downtown Cleveland is getting a new name -- and a big new tenant. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald delivered that news yesterday at his State of the County Speech. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports.
When he stepped into office, Ed FitzGerald said, the Medical Mart and Convention Center project was losing its way.
FITZGERALD: “There was a great deal of skepticism about whether the project would be constructed on time and on budget, and whether the business plan could be executed, or even whether there was a business plan.”
The publicly funded, $465 million project is set to open this year, and FitzGerald has rechristened it. It’s no longer called the Medical Mart, he said. Now, it’s the Global Center for Health Innovation.
FitzGerald said a new tenant is coming on board, too: the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society. It’s a nonprofit healthcare technology group based in Chicago. FitzGerald said it was going to sign on to a similar project in Nashville that fell through.
FITZGERALD: “It’s one of the largest healthcare associations in the country—and I might add that it was the original anchor tenant for the proposed Nashville facility…And they have committed to leasing an entire floor of the Global Center for Health Innovation.”
This means half the building is now leased. But it wasn’t clear from the speech if the new name and new tenant mean that the project has a new purpose, too—one that’s broader than serving as a high-tech showroom for medical technology.
Another change FitzGerald touted was what’s happening to the Ameritrust building. Previous county leaders spent millions to buy and rehabilitate it, but never moved in. It became a symbol of the old government’s inefficiency and cronyism.
FITZGERALD: “We took a situation which had become a fiasco, we resolved it, we created a huge economic development project out of it...we will help revitalize a crucial part of our downtown and saved money at the same time.”
In January, county council approved FitzGerald’s plan to sell it to a private developer for $27 million.
Probably FitzGerald’s most animated remarks came when he talked about the combined effect of government reform and economic growth. FitzGerald said the results of county reform are already leading to new business and cultural investment. And when people talk about the prospects for Northeast Ohio, they shouldn’t be skeptical anymore.
FITZGERALD: “We have emerged from circumstances that lesser communities could never have survived, and it’s time to be proud of that. The Greater Cleveland area is improving, and we know it.”
FitzGerald was well received by the packed crowd, largely of Democrats, at the Renaissance Hotel.
We went looking for a Republican reaction. David Greenspan is one of two Republicans on the county council. Greenspan said he didn’t find much to disagree with. If anything, he said we’ve heard much of it before.
GREENSPAN: “I would classify it as a safe speech. I believe a lot of the programs that he discussed are ideas and concepts that are already being discussed in council and in various committees.”
FitzGerald spoke on the same day Gov. John Kasich presented the State of the State address. The Cuyahoga County executive is mulling over a challenge to Kasich in next year’s governor’s race.
During a question-and-answer session after the speech, a man who identified himself as a FitzGerald supporter said he was concerned about the executive’s higher ambitions.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: “Would you please speak to us about whether or not you feel that would be leaving us in the lurch and that some of the momentum you have would be lost.”
FITZGERALD: “No. Next question.”
FitzGerald didn’t reveal any more about his plans, but did leave himself some wiggle room. He said the county will be just fine no matter what he decides.
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