Beck Center and Kaufman Park
I appreciate everyone’s input over the last few weeks concerning a potential development at Lakewood Plaza and the Kauffman Park area. An engaged citizenry is one of Lakewood’s strongest assets. We fully expect to provide a more complete presentation about this potential development to the public. However, we are currently gathering the necessary information for the public and our elected officials to make an informed decision.
Since becoming the Planning and Development Director, I have reviewed several plans put forth by numerous developers and community groups for the redevelopment of this area. All of these organizations had well-intentioned goals of enhancing this very important facet of downtown Lakewood. To that end, the City of Lakewood applied, along with Lakewood Community Progress Incorporated (LCPI), for a grant to enhance the streetscape along Detroit Avenue and review development opportunities in the downtown district. The City and LCPI held three public meetings on January 31st, April 19th and August 28th for this study. These public meetings were promoted by press releases, fliers, Lakewood Alive, the Lakewood Observer, and even a notice on First Federal of Lakewood's electronic billboard.
Although these presentations did not provide any specific design or tenant recommendations for the mixed-use center, the study recommended moving the green- space to the street with a mixed-use center at the rear. The presentation given at the August 28th meeting can be reviewed at the City’s website at www.ci.lakewood.oh.us. Those involved with the study felt that a redefined park offers the City the opportunity to strengthen and enhance the heart of the community in a manner that adds value, re-energizes public spaces, and establishes a more cohesive connection to the park and its surroundings. The City of Lakewood remains the only inner-ring suburb with a true downtown. By maximizing the opportunities with this asset, it will support the community and serve as a center of confluence. This new space could be used to host a variety of community festivals and events, such as Light Up Lake Lakewood and the Farmers’ Market. It could provide important support to the downtown merchants and the City’s Main Street efforts.
Since this process began over two years ago, a developer actually purchased Lakewood Plaza. The developer will invest in Lakewood Plaza. It is our hope that the investment will maximize the site and surrounding area consistent with the Detroit Avenue Streetscape plan. We asked the developer to perform his due diligence on two plans: one limited to his site and another with additional City property. The developer is currently involved with complex negotiations with the existing and potential tenants, architects, and financial institutions. The City of Lakewood for its part was concerned about recreational activities, and the amount of green space that would be available if the park was reconfigured. To that end, we hired Osborn Engineering, a nationally known architectural engineering firm who has been the lead architect on the Yankee Stadium, OSU Stadium, and Jacob’s Field. The scope of work was to review the current uses at the existing site and suggest improvements at the City’s remaining parks and estimate their costs. City Council held a Committee of the Whole on June 11th. All Council members were given notice of the Committee of the Whole meeting, and the Clerk followed regular public notification processes that included notifying the local news media, the Lakewood Observer, and the Lakewood Public Library plus many others. At this meeting, we disclosed the necessity of this study was to see the feasibility of moving recreational programming from Kauffman Park to three other parks (Madison, Cove and Lakewood Park) if Kauffman Park was redefined. All Council members were present with the exception of Councilmen Demro and Dever. The Committee recommended funding the study. On June 18th, the full Council approved Ordinance 74-06B to expend these funds by a 6-0 vote with Councilman Dever abstaining. Before this regular Council meeting, the Council docket for that evening was posted on the City’s website. The Council docket was also available the previous Friday in Council’s office. At the Committee hearing and at the Council meeting, members were able to ask any detailed questions. At the Committee of the Whole, it was also disclosed that there was a purchase option of Lakewood Plaza and the potential developer was identified.
Over the last two months, the City has worked with Osborn Engineering in developing enhancements at the other parks and adding green space. We have laid out general parameters for the consultant to pursue in his design. Those parameters were to take the list of programmed activities at the park and build new enhanced facilities in the appropriate locations. The developer was instructed to design this space to include green space on Detroit Avenue for public use.
Lakewood has over 110 of acres of park space on school or City property. (This number includes the approximately four acres recently added to the inventory through the school’s rebuilding process.) The City also utilizes part of the 3,400 acres of Cleveland Metropark space on its western border. In this process, we have involved the Division of Recreation of Lakewood City Schools who manages the park programming. It is our hope that with investment in this project, further capital improvements will enhance the overall recreation options and add further acreage for public use. In no way do we want to diminish the public park amenities currently available.
There will be a public process. If the due diligence process reveals that the development will not result in enhanced recreational opportunities for Lakewood residents, there will be no public investment or sale of land. Any sale of land will be sold at fair market value as established through an appraisal process. There are numerous zoning issues that would go before a public meeting of the Planning Commission that is a public process. The authorization to sell land by charter will require approval of City Council and further public hearings. I welcome everyone’s input when and if a specific proposal is put forth. In the interim, we will attempt to keep you informed. Please understand that much of the press on any topic is frequently limited in space and in content. I hope this post is more helpful to you. Any redevelopment of the site will be done in a thoughtful, planned, and public approach.