Purchase of Euclid Beach Mobile Home Park spurs plans for Collinwood lakefront’s potential

This past Sunday, Dec. 5, Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC) announced it has purchased the 28.5-acre Euclid Beach Mobile Home Park on Lake Erie in the North Shore Collinwood neighborhood.

Euclid Beach Mobile Home ParkThe property once housed temporary employees of Euclid Beach amusement park, which closed in 1969. While various elected officials and organizations made failed attempts to purchase the land in the 1980s to create public beaches and parks, the property was ultimately converted into a year-round mobile home community.

In 2019, the mobile park owner, Dallas-based Moore Enterprises, contacted Cleveland ward 8 councilperson Mike Polensek about selling the property—potentially for conversion into high rise apartments or commercial use.

“To say the least, it wasn’t a very pleasant conversation between us,” recalls Polensek. “I said, ‘there’s no way I’d support this, there’s no way the community would support this.’ I started calling everyone.”

Polensek reached out to the WRLC for help. “I reached out to the Land Conservancy and other nonprofits because it was critical that the property be in the safe hands of an organization that values the region’s best interests and also respects the current park tenants,” explains Polensek. “I am confident that the Land Conservancy will proceed thoughtfully and with a full appreciation for how this historic property best fits into our neighborhood’s future.”

After two years of negotiations, WRLC bought the property for $5.8 million. Euclid Beach Mobile Home Park is located between Bratenahl and Euclid—between Euclid Beach Park to the west and Villa Angela Beach and Wildwood Marina to the east—all of which are managed by the Cleveland Metroparks. The Cleveland Public Library Memorial-Nottingham branch, housed in the former Villa Angela Academy, sits on 18 acres near the property’s southern entrance.

"I'm glad they acquiesced," says Polensek of Moore Properties. "I made it pretty clear to them they would not be successful in putting up apartments."

Polensek says he is pleased with the deal, and that the Land Conservancy will come up with a plan for the property that will only enhance the neighborhood. “I always looked upon this in a holistic approach,” he says, “one that connects the lakefront and the [Collinwood] recreation center. I say thank you, on behalf of the community because there are a lot of other efforts [WRLC) could spend their time on. But this property is critical to protecting and developing the lakefront.”

Euclid Beach ParkNow that the transaction has been made, WRLC senior vice president Matt Zone says it’s time to start brainstorming and planning for the property’s future. But the current priority, Zone stresses, is to make sure the approximately 137 residents in the park know that there are no immediate plans to change anything or start evicting tenants.

Zone says the park has 150 mobile homes on the property currently and at one time had the potential to have about 275 homes.

“Western Reserve Land Conservancy is committed to providing quality of life to the tenants who live there—that’s our number one priority,” says Zone. “There will be no changes for the first year. We will deal with those tenants in a compassionate manner.”

Zone says Michigan-based Blank Family Communities has been hired to manage the mobile home park, make repairs, and do maintenance work. Residents have been notified of the sale and assured that rents and fees will not increase.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” says Zone of WRLC’s priority on the residents. “[Blank] has clear instructions that they should use the highest of standards to care for the properties and the tenants.”

While Zone says he sees a lot of potential for the property, plenty of planning must first be done.

“Once in a generation we get the opportunity to reshape a part of the lakefront,” he says. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and say we know exactly what we’re going to do.”

Zone says he wants to spend 2022 in planning mode. But the immediate need was to prevent the property from being sold to an outside developer for private use.

“Western Reserve Land Conservancy purchased this property to ensure that it stays in local hands and the tenants, the community, and city agencies have the time and opportunity to create a plan that will benefit all,” he says. “For too long, this property has been in the hands of an out-of-state, private interest who was finally ready to sell it.

"It would have been a huge missed opportunity to allow it to be sold to another private developer, probably from outside of Ohio," Zone continues. "The Land Conservancy is an organization that holds the best interests of the community as a fundamental value and mission, and first and foremost, we acquired it to safeguard this important and rare lakefront property.”

Wildwood Park MarinaZone says officials with WRLC want to bring many voices to the table to create a feasible plan. “We plan to bring in Greater Collinwood Development Organization (GCDC), residents, councilman Polensek and other city officials, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, the Cleveland Public Library (CPL), the Cleveland Metroparks, and anyone else interested in chatting,” he says. “This process will be meaningful and inclusive, and it will take some time.”

For instance, Zone says the CPL is moving its distribution center and will eventually rebuild the antiquated Nottingham branch—which could free up additional greenspace adjacent to the 28.5 existing acres.

Even though Zone is adamant that adequate planning will take time, he also admits he sees great things for the neighborhood. Zone, who was ward 15 Cleveland city councilperson from 2001 to 2020 before stepping into his current role with the Land Conservancy, says he sees the same potential in the Collinwood neighborhood and Euclid Beach waterfront that he saw in the Detroit Shoreway and Gordon Square Arts District as it was first blossoming.

“I think a lot of attributes this neighborhood has, I saw in Gordon Square and Edgewater Park,” he says of Euclid Beach and Collinwood. “This neighborhood has a lot of makings of what happened in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.”

Jamie Baker, associate director of the GCDC, says she would like to see Collinwood reach the levels the Detroit Shoreway has attained. “With the kind of work we do on a neighborhood level, we go into it with what the community sees as [right] for our people—to make Collinwood more of something that is a destination,” she says. “That’s what makes it catalytic because we are participants in the vision to become one property.”

Baker shares Zone’s vision for transforming the area. “Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s presence in Collinwood is a first step in the catalytic process for Collinwood’s lakefront,” she says. “Any kind of lakefront transformation is going to have a significant and supportive effect for the entire neighborhood.”

Baker cites Collinwood projects like the 2016 renovation La Salle Theater, the current $12 million streetscape for 185th Street, and the ongoing development of the Waterloo Arts District, as efforts that will only be enhanced by any group effort with Euclid Beach.

Euclid Beach She says she is eager to work with the WRLC and other groups to craft a plan that benefits everyone. “Ideally, we would like to see a community process happen that allows us to understand the transformation envisioned,” she says, adding that she agrees regional stakeholders, residents, and community leaders need to be involved.

“At this phase, the most exciting part is the process of coming together to create the vision,” Baker continues. “It’s a great opportunity to think about something that has the potential to take flight.”

Polensek, too, is exited to move forward. “Hopefully, everyone is happy at this point,” he says. “We can now work toward the goal of creative this historic hunk of property. I want to see parks grow, I want to see greater access to the lakefront with walkways and bike paths in the North Shore Collinwood area.”

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.