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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Au Bon Pain, Starbucks, Conference Rooms and Vacant Space — The Sorry State of the Global Center for Health and Innovation

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 2:28 PM

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The Global Center for Health and Innovation, the $465-million, four-year-old, publicly financed complex is a) 20-percent vacant, b) unable to draw new tenants and c) without a leader, as it has been since June of 2016, thirteen months ago, when Fred DeGrandis departed the managing director position.

If you think that the frustratingly dumb misuse of Cuyahoga County taxpayer money is a failure, you'd be right. The Cuyahoga County Convention Facilities Development Corporation, the nonprofit that technically manages the Global Center and the Convention Center, might argue differently, but they'd be wrong.

You'd have to look no further than today's updates on the stagnant past and dismal future of the operation provided by CCCFDC executive director George Hillow to Cleveland.com today. Among the highlights and developments he points to, according to the story, are the arrival of a Starbucks and the expansion of Au Bon Pain (which was highlighted as a highpoint six months ago, which is another way of saying nothing good has happened since then):

About 20 percent of the Cuyahoga County-owned, four-story glass building — formerly called the medical mart — remains empty.

Officials are excited about an Au Bon Pain expansion and a new Starbucks and UPS store, instead.

The new plan is to lure customers of those businesses into the soaring atrium for coffee or lunch. Vacant space on the second floor will be transformed into overflow conference rooms for the attached convention center or adjoining Hilton Hotel.

Officials also plan to alter a large space for healthcare startups into leased spaces for entrepreneurs.
Colliers was contracted as a consultant to help recruit new tenants (and they only get paid when they secure contracts), but in the year since they were enlisted the 20-percent vacancy hasn't changed. Hillow, who makes $120,000 a year, a salary picked up by the county, told Cleveland.com that some of the vacant space on the second floor will be turned into conference rooms.

As for the other 80 percent, many of the leases are up in 2018 (and, as we reported last year, many of those leases were discounted and signed at below-market rates, including two freebies). So if it looks bad now, just imagine a year or two from now when it's almost completely empty and convention officials pivot to a full-blown mall food court.


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