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Cleveland establishes special improvement district to fund additional policing in University Circle

A University Circle Police Department car parked on the tree lawn outside the Cleveland History Center.
Annie Wu
Ideastream Public Media
The special improvement district will take effect in 2025.

Cleveland City Council on Monday approved a plan to fund additional police and transportation efforts in the city's University Circle neighborhood on the East Side.

The special improvement district, a geographic area where property owners pay for public improvements, is designed to sustainably fund the public safety and transportation service plan, run by University Circle Inc., the neighborhood's community development corporation.

The neighborhood is home to major Cleveland employers and attractions, including the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, the art and history museums and botanical garden and Case Western Reserve University.

With more than 50,000 people coming to the area every day, Council President Blaine Griffin said additional police are necessary in the area. The city currently operates a joint police agreement between the Cleveland Division of Police and University Circle Police for the neighborhood.

"We’ve really felt good about the work we’ve done being a force multiplier for the Cleveland Police Department," said University Circle Police Chief Tom Wetzel. "We work really well with them, and we take a lot off their plate to help them: we take calls, we take reports."

Currently, the public safety plan is funded by voluntary payments from institutions in the area and University Circle Inc.'s general budget, though that is done at a "substantial deficit," according to the nonprofit.

The special improvement district is designed to provide more sustainable funding, according to University Circle Inc. President Kate Borders. Property within the district will be assessed to fund services estimated to cost annually from $3.9 million in 2025 to $4.4 million in 2029, according to the legislation. The plan also includes a budget for bias-free policing training.

As Cleveland continues to face headwinds in its efforts to recruit and retain officers, some members of council were optimistic about what University Circle Inc.'s plan could mean for the rest of the city.

“I’m hoping as a result of what you’re doing, it’s going to free up more CPD officers to be able to patrol other sections of the city," said Councilmember Mike Polensek during a committee meeting Monday.

The special improvement district will take effect in 2025.

Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.