Cedar Lee Meadowbrook development project moves closer to reality

After years of planning, the Cedar Lee Meadowbrook development project is moving ahead weeks after Cleveland Heights residents turned down a ballot issue to preserve an acre-plus of city-owned land as a “public square.”

Issue 9 asked residents to approve an ordinance for a public activity park on 1.07 acres at the corner of Lee and Tullamore Roads and Meadowbrook Boulevard. Nearly three-quarters of voters rejected the issue on May 3, according to results from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

Following the decisive vote. as well as previous approvals from the city planning commission and board of zoning appeals, Cleveland Heights is currently reviewing a financial incentive package with help from Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District.

Lining up financing will pave the way for the groundbreaking of the $50 million mixed-use development by fall, notes city business development manager Brian Anderson. Plans include a four-story apartment building with 139 units and 1,200 square feet of retail space. The apartment will be constructed on surface lots behind the Cedar Lee Theatre and other businesses, with a footprint stretching south from Cedar Road opposite Cleveland Heights High School to Tullamore Road.

<span class="content-image-text">Cedar Lee Meadowbrook activity green space</span>Cedar Lee Meadowbrook activity green spaceA second site along Lee Road at Tullamore, meanwhile, will host 67 apartments alongside 7,000 square feet of retail. Approximately a half-acre of the 1.07-acre Meadowbrook plot will remain open, with a public park comprising most of that space.

Proponents say the plan will make the district competitive in a marketplace where active neighborhoods can serve as veritable population magnets.

“There’s a great collection of merchants and businesses [at Cedar Lee] in a walkable, main-street context,” says Anderson.

Cleveland Heights has been eyeing the Cedar Lee corridor for 15 years, Cleveland Heights mayor Kahlil Seren said in a May 5 city press release following the defeat of the Issue 9 ballot item organized by resident Fran Mentch.

“This development will enhance a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood that will draw people from across the region to Cleveland Heights,” said Seren.

A modified version of the plan—as envisioned by Flaherty & Collins Properties and Cleveland-based firm City Architecture—has 2.3 acres of total green space. There’s still a question of how much of that space will be for residential use, a detail set to emerge in the final landscape plans, says Cleveland Heights planning director Eric Zamft. The Meadowbrook side, for example, could have a dog run and public seating.

“It’s an evolving process—our parks department will be involved,” says Zamft. “We want to get as much input as possible.”

Mentch, a Cleveland Heights resident since 1989, says the newly proposed park did not receive enough community input, even as park backers were continually denied inclusion into virtual city council meetings throughout the pandemic. Additionally, there have been at least four citizen-led proposals for a park submitted to the city over the last nine years.

“A park would have served the community wonderfully,” says Mentch. “An expansion of green space by the developers is a false narrative. They’re calling it an open space, but it’s a small corridor. Supporters say. 'let’s talk about this down the road,' but that equals a 'no.' The city is not thinking in a sustainable, creative, and humane way.”

The Meadowbrook and Lee property was designated as a “multi-use district” in the mid-aughts, supported by a 377-space parking garage for a previous development proposal scotched by recession. Pending final approval, Cleveland Heights is aiming for a 24-month construction period for the new project.

“We’re trying to demonstrate that Cleveland Heights is open for business,” says Zamft. “We hope that the real estate and business worlds are paying attention.”

Douglas J. Guth
Douglas J. Guth

About the Author: Douglas J. Guth

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to being senior contributing editor at FreshWater, his work has been published by Crain’s Cleveland Business, Ideastream, and Middle Market Growth. At FreshWater, he contributes regularly to the news and features departments, as well as works on regular sponsored series features.