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Cleveland Heights Seeks New Role For Severance Town Center

The former Walmart at Severance Town Center [Courtesy Nicholas Eckhart]
The former Walmart at Severance Mall

Cleveland Heights is seeking help deciding the future of Severance Town Center, the city’s largest business district.

The city has a  Request for Proposal (RFP) out to create a redevelopment plan for the 57-acre site. Released last Friday, the RFP seeks an urban planning firm to help rebrand and redesign the property at the intersection of Mayfield and Taylor roads. The ultimate goal is “to redevelop Severance Town Center as a mixed-use and walkable area consistent with the character of Cleveland Heights,” which is a driving force in the city’s 2017 master plan.

Cleveland Heights Economic Development Timothy Boland says the site will turn Severance into more of a neighborhood.

“Severance can evolve to be its own business district, its own neighborhood, but certainly looking at it just as a retail mall, I think we’ve progressed beyond that,” he says.

The city will use the redevelopment plan to attract the developer residents and council members hope will help once again transform a property that originally shined as a retail jewel.

For more than 50 years, shopping in Cleveland Heights meant a trip to Severance. It opened in 1963 as the region’s first fully enclosed mall and home to high-end, locally owned stores like Higbee’s and Halle’s.

By the 1990s, though, enclosed malls had fallen out of vogue nationally. The property was redesigned and renamed, becoming Severance Town Center, where shoppers could park and run into big-box stores like Home Depot and Walmart. But that didn’t halt the center’s decline. Borders Books closed in 2011, Walmart pulled out in 2013. Both spaces remain vacant. In fact, almost half the mall currently consists of empty stores, according to the RFP.

Any plan will take account Cleveland Heights’ population shifts. Residents are getting older and more prosperous, according to demographic projections. By 2021, officials expect growth among residents aged 65 and older, as well as among residents making at least $75,000 annually. Officials want to cater to those segments by offering a park-like atmosphere where shoppers can walk and gather for events, as well as “experience-oriented retail,” the proposal says. And the plan will have to include current anchors like Home Depot, Dave’s Market and  MetroHealth.

Cleveland Heights is accepting proposals until July 31 and expects to choose a firm in September.