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Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Giant Outlet Mall on Lakefront Property Downtown? Cleveland Must Be Insane to Consider It

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 12:10 PM

click to enlarge HORIZON GROUP PROPERTIES
  • Horizon Group Properties
News last week, first reported by the PD's Michelle Jarboe, that a company called Horizon Group Properties was pitching an outlet mall in Cleveland to potential retailers, sent tremors, by express mail, to the Scene newsroom.

What — we inquired in our inside voices — on earth?  

The outlet mall is "under development," on the HGP website, and it's a proposed 350,000 square-foot monstrosity, occupying prime real estate on a blank-canvas waterfront that civic leaders were supposed to be rallying to develop in the best possible, most civically responsible way. 

So imagine our surprise when an outlet mall appeared to be getting buy-in from folks like Fred Geis, the local developer-supreme who now sits (controversially) on the Cleveland Planning Commission and who's company has an option on the 20-acre site.  

The words from a February Plain Dealer editorial on the subject now seem prophetic.

"There's a big conflict of interest here and it's far more than perception," the Plain Dealer wrote about Geis's appointment to the Planning Commission. "Fred Geis, a Cleveland resident, owns several parcels of land in Cleveland and works closely with the city to craft public financing deals and to obtain low-interest loans for his projects. That seems at odds with a commitment to serve on an independent board that is supposed to protect the public interest...even if the interests of developers get hurt in the process." 

Fist bump, PD

Geis told Steve Litt that he was under a confidentiality agreement with HGP, and wouldn't comment until the concept became "more than a vague dream." But he'd been quoted in Jarboe's initial story saying that HGP had already met with city and county officials and that they (Geis himself and the purported officials) were "all very anxious to see them come to Cleveland." 

Yikes.

Litt was on the money when he noted that the current design appears to be "driven by profit maximization, not a desire to be part of a neighborhood," a desire which would also seem totally incongruous with the new downtown neighborhood that developer Dick Pace has been pushing: Schools! Grocery stores! Green spaces! And outlet malls? 

After decades of discussion and wishful thinking about the lakefront — about doing the lakefront right — Cleveland seemed to be heading in the right direction at last with its recent wave of downtown development. This HGP project would signal not only a regression, but an absolute betrayal of residents, residents who deserve more than Lodi on the water. 

If Cleveland leaders have any balls at all, they'll shut this shit down. 


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