Cleveland officials say proposed police HQ will give economic boost to blighted Kinsman

In November, the city of Cleveland announced plans to locate the new Cleveland Division of Police Headquarters along the Opportunity Corridor in the Kinsman neighborhood—one of the poorest in the city. Many city officials say the decision has the potential to solve several issues.

First, the city already owns the 13 acres at East 75th Street and Grand Avenue needed to build the 200,000-square-foot facility. The complex will house Police Chief Calvin Williams’ office, the narcotics and gang units, homicide, the property room, the training academy, an indoor shooting range, a real-time crime center, classrooms, and a community gathering space. The five neighborhood district locations will remain intact.

“It provides us with an opportunity to build the new, state-of-the-art technology we need as we move forward with a real-time crime center,” says Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. “A thousand people will be at police headquarters, and three-quarters of them will be officers. It will not be a fortress. It will be inviting to the community.”

While some may want the police headquarters to be downtown, Jackson says there really were no viable options for the technologically advanced center the city wanted to build.

Proposed Cleveland Police Headquarters site at East 75th Street and Grand Avenue.

“We had gone through some rounds of this and identified multiple sites,” he says. “In the first renditions, we thought it would be best to keep it downtown and wound up with places that were completely inadequate as far as parking, technology, and innovation.”

They looked at the former Plain Dealer building at 1801 Superior Ave., which has a lot of open space to meet their needs, Jackson says. But tenants with long-term leases made the move implausible, he says.

They also considered the AsiaTown area, Jackson says, but Kinsman needs revitalization more, and AsiaTown doesn't have enough land. “If we did it downtown, it would not have the same benefits,” he says. There is nowhere to easily consolidate all the operations into one facility. “We couldn’t do this downtown. It’s turnkey.”

City officials will spend next year in the planning stages of the project. Construction on the LEED Silver-certified campus is scheduled to begin in 2021, with completion in 2022.

Second, the hope is the project will spur economic development in the distressed neighborhood—dense with boarded-up and abandoned, decaying buildings. “When we were first marketing [Opportunity Corridor] and talking to investors, they did not want to be the first to go out there by themselves in a desolate area, and they wanted to know if they’d be safe,” Jackson says. “So, with that in mind, we began looking at the police headquarters as an answer to both of these issues.”

The nearby Orlando Baking Co. at 7777 Grand Ave. and Miceli Dairy Products at 2721 East 90th St. have made long-term commitments to the neighborhood, he says. “They’ve invested a lot in staying, so we’re supporting the businesses that have invested tens of millions of dollars,” he says.

Jackson says the site of the new headquarters fits with his Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, in which he identified four blighted neighborhoodsThird, Jackson says the site of the new headquarters fits with his Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, in which he identified four blighted neighborhoods—the East 79th Street Corridor between Central Avenue and Kinsman, Clark-Fulton, Buckeye-Woodhill, and Glenville—and leveraged $25 million in city bond funds to attract an additional $40 million in bank, nonprofit, and philanthropic funds that are strategically targeted toward commercial, residential, and entrepreneurial and workforce training programs.

“The Neighborhood Transformation Initiative is focused on distressed neighborhoods to create wealth and increase market value,” Jackson said in his 2019 State of the City address. “These programs are designed to support the stable neighborhoods, maintain the momentum of trending neighborhoods, stop the decline of transitioning neighborhoods, and rebuild our distressed neighborhoods.”

Building the police headquarters along the Opportunity Corridor will be a boost to one of the larger distressed portions of the city, Jackson says. “Our philosophy is, how do we use public investment dollars to stop transition and make sure we have stable neighborhoods,” he says. “We’re bringing in a consultant to market Opportunity Corridor to developers and businesses. One of the marketing tools will be the police headquarters.”

Ward 5 Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland says she thinks the plan to locate the headquarters within her district is a smart and optimistic move.

“Initially I was surprised, because I didn’t even know the administration was looking at the area for the police headquarters,” she says. “We want to attract industry and business there, and that’s not an easy thing to do. I think it will be catalytic in attracting other businesses to the area.”

Like Jackson, Cleveland also views the move as a way for the city to take the lead on developing the neighborhood. “My experience has been, once someone takes that first step, that gives the OK to everyone else who may be thinking about it.”

The Opportunity Corridor on East 93rd Street.Cleveland says Ward 5 is often viewed as an area with high poverty rates and a high concentration of public and subsidized housing, but organizations like Rid-All Green Partnership and Burten Bell Carr Development have been working for years to improve the neighborhood. Even the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District have contributed to neighborhood revitalization efforts.

“We’re already experiencing growth, just with the expansion of what’s happening in the neighborhood” Cleveland says. “We’ve got some really good plans for the neighborhood. It will bring jobs; it will bring stakeholders. We’re still committed to bringing some significant employers to the neighborhood.”

With almost 1,000 people working at the police headquarters each day, it is only a matter of time before banks, groceries, and drugstores arrive to serve this population, Cleveland says. And the fears of crime or being the only business will be quickly diminished.

“Once you get that first shovel full of dirt, everyone’s saying, ‘I want in, I want in,’” she says. “We’re just having to be mindful of all the opportunities that come.”

Kinsman residents have embraced the plan so far, Jackson says. “The residents love it, it’s someone investing in their neighborhood,” he says. “The people on the ground, in the neighborhood, think it’s great.”

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.