Cleveland, developer to meet on former Plain Dealer building as police headquarters; Mayor Frank Jackson unconvinced deal still possible

September 25, 2018 GMT

Cleveland, developer to meet on former Plain Dealer building as police headquarters; Mayor Frank Jackson unconvinced deal still possible

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Officials from Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration will meet this week with developers working on a site for a new police headquarters to discuss whether the former home of The Plain Dealer can still be secured. 

The site at 1801 Superior remains the preferred site, but the city on Sept. 18 wrote to developer Fred Geis that it “no longer desires” to pursue purchase of the building with Geis’ company, GLP Superior Ltd. 

The city made the letter public Monday. In an interview Tuesday with cleveland.com, Jackson wouldn’t say specifically what prompted the decision, saying he wouldn’t negotiate in public.  

But the mayor confirmed the problems were not with the site itself. 

“Sometimes you just can’t make a deal,” Jackson said. “It just doesn’t work for us. ... I just can’t give you the details.” 

Jackson was unsure exactly when his team would meet with the developer. Nor was he optimistic about chances that the differences can be resolved. 

“It’s very slim. If the door is open, it’s not open for very long,” Jackson said. 

“Teams from both sides are meeting this week. I don’t know what will come of that. Our letter was pretty specific,” he said. 

The letter, sent by Jackson’s director of capital projects Matthew Spronz, was short and to the point. 

“At this time the City of Cleveland no longer desires to pursue the purchase of 1801 Superior Avenue property for the Cleveland Division of Police Headquarters with GLP Superior LTD. Thank you for working with the city on this important project.”  

Cleveland announced in June it intended to move its police department out of the Justice Center downtown and into the building on Superior, once GLP Superior LTD converted the space. The site, more than 8 acres on Superior between East 18th and East 21st streets, formerly housed The Plain Dealer.  

It now is occupied by the Council for Economic Opportunities of Greater Cleveland, the YMCA of Greater Cleveland and Advance Ohio/cleveland.com. 

The project was a $60 million deal that included the purchase and alteration of the building. The package included $19.5 million to purchase the property from The Plain Dealer Publishing Co., with some negotiating still to come.  

The site was selected from among two dozen proposals. The city’s team praised the proposal for the office space that could be converted to a police headquarters relatively quickly, the presence of a parking garage to store vehicles and equipment and the available parking, both for officers and for the public.  

In July, Cleveland City Council approved the project and the hiring of GLP Superior Ltd. to buy and renovate the property.  

The target for completing the move was next spring, police Chief Calvin Williams said.  

If the 1801 Superior deal cannot be worked out, the city will begin anew to find a location for its police headquarters. 

“We start over again,” Jackson said.  

Among the other sites, the next most cost effective was use of the old Third District headquarters building at 2001 Payne Ave. That site, which would require modification and expansion, was proposed by two separate developers at projected costs of $80 million and $93.4 million. 

But Jackson noted that the city was able to work with Geis to lower the costs in GLP’s bid from $72 million to $60 million for the 1801 Superior site.  

“That’s one factor, but that’s not the sole factor,” Jackson said. “There were other places that were eliminated because of the dysfunction. Others were just too expensive.” 

The city is on the clock, too, for vacating its current Justice Center headquarters. The city sold the property to Cuyahoga County for $9.25 million as part of a deal under which the county will handle all jail operations. 

The county is to take title of the property Oct. 1. After that, the city can remain in its offices, but will pay the county $10 a square foot in rent. 

Jackson has made clear he wants the city to avoid as much of the rental costs as possible and intends to move departments out of the Justice Center regardless of where the police headquarters is relocated. Some offices will be in temporary quarters around the city.