Yesterday, Cuyahoga County Council was given a series of updates on their biggest projects: the Global Center for Health Innovation and the Cleveland Convention Center. For both, the forecasts were better than anticipated and continually optimistic with a major nod toward the Republican National Convention. There was also a moment when Jeffrey Appelbaum, attorney for the county on these projects, presented Council Prez C. Ellen Connally with a jar of "pure, raw honey." More on that in a bit.
Colloquially termed the "Med Mart," tenants are starting to settle in at the Global Center for Health Innovation en masse one year after opening, though there are still a number of industry sectors not yet represented here. Mark Leahy, general manager for the two centers, said that the industries that operator SMG is looking for still include: pharmaceuticals, health insurance, devices/implants/biomechanics, innovative and early-stage companies for the Northeast Ohio showcase, educational institutions for professionals and general consumer health. County Council members pointed out that those are big gaps yet unfilled.
"We need an outreach program," Leahy said. "And we need to intensify."
As far as occupancy — the big number everyone was waiting for, Leahy intimated — the Global Center is sitting at 79.2 percent (they're shooting for 84.55 percent by year's end, if two clients, including MetroHealth, wrap up negotiations). The original goal for the end of 2014 was 80 percent.
Regarding the Convention Center, the events of which will funnel people directly into the Hilton in the future, Leahy said that 376 groups have already booked events there for all upcoming years. Most are in the medical field; others are in the education and engineering fields or in the financial and legal world.
"Synergy" was probably the most used word of the presentation, as the two centers will work with the in-construction Hilton hotel on the corner of Ontario and Lakeside. You can already see the base of the building rising up; Appelbaum said the rest of the hotel structure will be built at a rate of one floor per week in the near future. The Republican National Committee, in town just last week, is overjoyed at the progress.
SMG projections for "room nights booked" — the basic metric of success in the converter center world — blossomed from Jan. 1 estimates after this summer's RNC decision.
Money-wise, the centers continue to run a deficit (-$4.1 million or -$4.2 million at the end of this year and -$3.9 million at the end of 2015). Appelbaum rationalized that as being "ahead of where we thought we would be," because the county paid $3 million to get out of a $10-million annual cost with former operator MMPI.
All told, the operators are predicting a $577-million economic impact on the county from 2014 to 2019. The RNC announcement essentially quadrupled earlier expectations.
Oh — and the matter of the jar of honey... Two colonies of Italian and Carniolan honeybees (16,000 bees) are producing honey for Convention Center recipes through Levy Restaurants. They're located on the north end of the Convention Center, beyond the glass façade in the Grand Ballroom. Appelbaum relayed that it is very scrumptious honey.