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Cleveland Foundation Headquarters Approved by City Planning Commission

Rendering of new Cleveland Foundation headquarters
S9 Architecture
The proposed headquarters would sit at the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 66th Street.

Plans for a new Cleveland Foundation headquarters in Midtown got the green light from the Cleveland Planning Commission Friday, but the project is still under fire from a lawsuit filed in 2019.

Plans for the building on East 66th Street and Euclid Avenue include a café, conference rooms and outdoor greenspace for the public and local nonprofits to use. Dunham Tavern Museum sold land to the Cleveland Foundation for the project last year.

The foundation’s expected 2022 move from the historic Hanna Building in Playhouse Square to its own, purpose-built building is a collaborative effort with the museum and other local organizations who plan to build out the area, according to the Cleveland Foundation’s India Pierce Lee.

“The design of our new home embodies our mission in its transparency, warmth, accessibility and sustainability,” she said.

The project will also include a temporary parking lot near the property for foundation and Dunham Tavern Museum parking.

The neighborhood has seen some development in the past 12 years, said MidTown Cleveland Executive Director Jeff Epstein, and stakeholders hope the Cleveland Foundation headquarters will spur more growth.

“These collective projects that are being planned with the Cleveland Foundation and the community really help shape and form what is going to happen after the Cleveland Foundation building is completed in this neighborhood to really, again, transform what we see here,” Epstein said.

The plan also includes developing East 66th Street from Euclid to Superior Avenue to eventually include a neighborhood path, sidewalks, on-street parking and trees. The Dunham Tavern Museum also is reworking its master plan alongside the foundation headquarters project, board members said, and will bring those plans before the city planning commission at a later date.

Building out the area is in line with the city’s plans to develop and grow the neighborhood as part of an opportunity zone, said Cleveland Director of City Planning Freddy Collier.

“This building is not just a building in isolation but something that is part of a bigger picture,” Collier said. “I think a puzzle piece that is really going to be important.”

But the development is facing some opposition. A lawsuit alleges some museum board members had conflicts of interest and responsibility because of other real estate dealings and should not have voted to approve the Dunham Tavern Museum sale of land to the Cleveland Foundation.

“Our question has been all along, if this project is so important, then why can’t they build it on any of a number of underdeveloped or underused parcels in the neighborhood, including right across the street?” said attorney Peter Pattakos.

Lower court rulings have favored the museum board members, saying “conflicts of responsibility” has the same meaning as “conflicts of interest.” The plaintiffs have appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, arguing the former term covers a broader number of factors.

The suit argues the land was purchased with museum donors’ support, based on the understanding it would become public greenspace. The state supreme court has not yet ruled on the matter.

“The donors thought they were restoring this greenspace for the public, and not for an institution like the Cleveland Foundation to come in and build a headquarters right on top of it,” Pattakos said.

A Dunham Tavern Museum board member, who is also an attorney in the case, spoke with ideastream but declined to be quoted in this story.
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