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Cleveland Schools Ask the Community: Should We Take Less Money Now?

photo of NuCLEus

The Cleveland Municipal School District is holding public meetings this week to gather feedback on an unusual proposal.

The meetings revolve around NuCLEus, a mixed-use development proposed for the site of a parking lot north of Quicken Loans Arena. The developer is proposing Tax Increment Financing, which calls for the school district to get $18 million now and then forego collecting its share of property taxes on the building for the next 30 years – an amount that’s estimated at more than $120 million.

School officials say the $18 million – plus $38 million in state matching funds – would be invested, where it would hopefully grow and fund new building construction.

Nicole Shabazz attended a forum over the weekend, and says she’s not on-board with the proposal.

“Knowing how the market can fluctuate, there is no guarantee that over time we’re going to recoup the money. This kind of bird-in-hand approach where we take the $18 million and hope for the best is not really giving me the assurance that I want to have.”

Shabazz added that she’s concerned by the district’s view that there is little room to negotiate with developer Stark Enterprises for more than $18 million.

CMSD CEO Eric Gordon says he’s neutral on the proposal, and that’s why he invites public feedback. He points out that – if approved – one plan would be to use the money to build several schools over the next six years.

“We’re talking about building four more LK-8 schools, a high school and a K-8 school, or some combination in between. So we’re talking two to five new buildings that we could add to the city footprint, replacing old buildings and putting new programming in place.”

Gordon says the $18 million and $38 million in state matching would be invested and put toward future construction. The school board will discuss the plan at its meeting a week from next Tuesday, Aug. 8.

This week's remaining meetings:

  • Tuesday, Aug. 1, at 6 p.m. John Adams High School, 3817 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 2, at 6 p.m. Cleveland School of the Arts, 2064 Stearns Road.
  • Thursday, Aug. 3, at 6 p.m. New Tech West, 11801 Worthington Ave.
  • Saturday, Aug. 5, at noon. Patrick Henry School, 11901 Durant Ave.
  • Sunday, Aug. 6, at 2 p.m. Boys and Girls Club - Broadway, 6114 Broadway Ave.

There is also a survey for residents about the TIF plan, which is open through August 7.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.