Heights citizens just want great designs for Top of the Hill development

Update: On Friday, April 26, at 9 a.m. in the City Council Chambers of City Hall at 40 Severance Circle, Cleveland Heights, an informal work session will be held for the applicant and ABR to discuss the project’s upcoming review. No action will be taken by the ABR. The public is invited to attend, but no public comment will occur. Please direct questions or comments to Richard Wong at 216-291-4868 or [email protected]

As the Top of the Hill project—a mixed-use development with apartments, retail, and parking at the top of Cedar Hill in Cleveland Heights’ Cedar Fairmount district—nears approval from the city’s Architectural Board of Review (ABR) next month, a group of Cleveland Heights residents are voicing their disapproval of the planned design.

Citizens for Great Design formed earlier this year by Cleveland Heights residents Mike Knoblauch, Rich Bozic, and Lute Quintrell, now joined by another dozen members. Their aim is to show their concern, as independent citizens, about Top of the Hill and find ways to incorporate modern design into the city without destroying the historic charm and character.

Top of the Hill renderingsConcerns include design aesthetics, a 500-car parking garage (that Knoblauch says is an outdated concept based on this Pew article about parking garages), and lack of affordability of apartments—especially to empty nesters who may be downsizing within the city.

Knoblauch says the group is not against projects like Top of the Hill, but they want their concerns to be heard and for additional attention be given to matching the historic architecture that makes up much of Cleveland Heights.

“Our goal is to be an advocate for good design and be an information-collecting vehicle for the community,” says Knoblauch.

At the ABR meeting on February 6, the board partially approved the plans submitted by the developer, Indianapolis-based Flaherty & Collins Properties. While the ABR was pleased with the buildings proposed to the east of a proposed road running through the development, it wanted additional studies conducted of the 10-story building at the point of Cedar Road, Cedar Glen Parkway, and Euclid Heights Boulevard. Flaherty & Collins must submit revised plans to the ABR by Wednesday, April 24, before the Tuesday, May 7 meeting.

The revisions will be available online and at Cleveland Heights libraries for residents to view and comment.

Top of the Hill renderingsKnoblauch says many members’ efforts to talk to city officials have been fruitless, and that some of the retail owners on Cedar Hill are unhappy with the current plan. While Citizens for Great Design does not take a stance on Top of the Hill on the website, the group has asked site visitors to take a survey about their opinions on the project.

“Our intention is to disseminate information to as large a group as possible through our website and take it to [the city to see] what people in the community are saying about Top of the Hill,” he says. “Our hope is the city realizes it needs to do a better job of responding to the needs and desires of what this city can be. We’re trying to engage the community and say, ‘You have the opportunity to express your opinion.’”

So far, 62 people have signed up for email updates from Citizens for Great Design, and the group has received about 30 survey responses. Many of the respondents cite the need for a design that complements the existing Tudor architecture on Cedar Hill, while others write about the need for ample green space. Some respondents don’t want to see any development take place on the four-acre parcel, while others worry the apartments won’t fill affordable housing needs. Others say they like the current designs.

Top of the Hill renderingsTim Boland, Cleveland Heights director of economic development, says the city has listened to residents throughout the process—citing public hearings at city, stakeholder, and Cedar Fairmount Special Improvement District (SID) meetings. “We have had strong, positive support from property owners and the Cedar Fairmount business district," says Boland. "We recognize this is such an important gateway to our community, and we’ve gone to great lengths—as we should—to find the most striking, effective, impactful project we can have there.””

City planning director Richard Wong agrees that he’s heard positive feedback and adds that opinions on aesthetic look of the project can be subjective. “There’s no right or absolute truth to whether it fits or not,” he says. “I’m not saying anyone is right or wrong, but I support [the vision of] the architects. There are architects in the community who have opinions that differ.”

Knoblauch says Citizens for Great Design plans to address other upcoming projects in Cleveland Heights, such as Severance Town Center and the Meadowbrook and Lee site.

The May 7 meeting will be at 7 p.m. and is open to the public. The Planning Commission meets at Cleveland Heights City Hall (40 Severance Circle) in Council Chambers.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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