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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cuyahoga County Council Begins Preparation to Leave Home Behind

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2011 at 11:09 AM


Cuyahoga County Council has introduced talk of ditching its digs at the corner of Lakeside and Ontario.

At a work session last week, members said they might tap into Med Mart and convention center backup funds to enhance the property’s future value.

The plan would make it easier for a developer to knock down the current administration building and invest in, say, a hotel connected to the convention center across the street. Thus far, no such developers have been identified.

Several council members believe the site of the current administration building would be better suited to convention center expansion than county business. “Common sense tells you that five years from now, this building won’t be here,” says councilman Dan Brady.

The county’s $50 million contingency fund, in place to cover unexpected costs, would be used to extend construction of the current convention center’s foundation to ensure that its drainage, wiring, and other infrastructure are connected to the county administration site.

Although a hotel won’t spring up tomorrow, “It would be much less expensive to put the infrastructure in place now than to do it later,” says councilman Dale Miller. Miller and fellow council member Jack Schron say the convention center will have adequate meeting space. “The constraint in the future will be on hotel space,” Schron says.

Though foundation work is already under way, there is no estimate yet for the cost of tying the project to the county site. Attorney Jeff Appelbaum, the county’s point man for the project, advised council that a decision would have to be made soon.

If council goes ahead with the plan, it would require tapping into the county’s contingency fund just five months into a project that’s slated to last 30 months.

Council’s proposal to move county offices follows similar recommendations by the former county commissioners. Although there has long been talk about moving to the county-owned Ameritrust boondoggle building, Miller says that’s probably not a good idea.

“It would be expensive,” he says. “It may be better to build a new building.” —Maude L. Campbell

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