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Cuyahoga County Council signs off on $40 million in work at the Global Center for Health Innovation

 The Global Center for Health Innovation in Downtown Cleveland, pictured here as the county hotel next door was under construction.
Jeff St. Clair
The Global Center for Health Innovation in Downtown Cleveland, pictured here as the county hotel next door was under construction.

Cuyahoga County Council has agreed to spend $40.4 million on upgrades to the Global Center for Health Innovation, the latest effort by county government to reinvent the struggling facility built as part of the new convention center complex.

The construction work would expand the center’s main ballroom, build staircases and escalators and add an outdoor terrace. Council voted 8-1 to pass the spending Tuesday evening.

The spending package includes $31 million in bond revenue and $9.4 million in cash. The cash amount draws $5 million from American Rescue Plan Act funds, $1.4 million from convention center naming rights and $3 million from the county’s general fund.

Cuyahoga County Convention Facilities Development Corporation, which oversees the convention center complex, is also committing $9 million in capital funds to the project.

At an August council meeting, a major backer of the proposal acknowledged that the Global Center – built as the Medical Mart, a showroom for medical technology – had failed to live up to its promise. But supporters said the center could find a new life as a wing of the convention center.

Republican Councilwoman Nan Baker cast the lone vote against the proposal. She said she supported building escalators and a new patio, but she drew the line at building out a bigger ballroom. That expansion could happen as a later phase, she said.

“I understand that this is all wanted now, but we do not have the confidence, in my opinion, in the taxpayers to take such a long leap after two unsuccessful tries with the Medical Mart and Global Health Center – both at the time championed to be needed,” Baker said.

Baker also said it was a “shortsighted” move not to include funding for a contemplated pedestrian bridge linking the Global Center with the Cleveland Marriott Downtown across the street.

The bridge would need approval from Cleveland’s planning commission. One commission member, Ward 17 Cleveland City Councilman Charles Slife, told Cleveland.com he opposed the plan. Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration also expressed reticence.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.