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Oakwood Developer Objects to FutureHeights Forum

Developer wants to be represented, but FutureHeights board president said forum will not focus on Oakwood

The man behind the proposed development has taken umbrage with a public forum scheduled for Thursday where development projects in the area will be discussed.

Mitchell Schneider, president of First Interstate Properties, objected because he does not feel his side will be represented. The forum, which will be hosted by the nonprofit group , was advertised as a “forum to discuss land use and Oakwood” in the Heights Observer newspaper, which FutureHeights operates. Residents of Cleveland Heights, University Heights and South Euclid were specifically invited, but all are welcome to attend. 

Schneider wrote in a letter addressed to Lloyd Bell, president of the FutureHeights board, that he wished he was asked to sit on the panel to address any issues that arise. The letter was also emailed to Cleveland Heights Patch by First Interstate Properties’ marketing department.

“If you truly want an open discussion about the proposed Oakwood development, all sides should be represented. I would have been most happy to sit on the panel, and take questions from the audience.  However, you did not invite me.  In fact, I only found out about this yesterday, by chance,” Schneider wrote, adding that he has a prior engagement and cannot attend.

Schneider hopes to turn the Oakwood site, which straddles South Euclid and Cleveland Heights, into about 150 acres of retail and residential properties and parkland. The company, which also developed Legacy Village, Willoughby Commons and Steelyard Commons, has already purchased the South Euclid portion and is awaiting city approval to have the area rezoned from residential to commercial.

Schneider also questioned how the forum’s three-member panel could offer “constructive comment” on the Oakwood project because they have not been directly involved. The panel will consist of Terry Schwarz, director of Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative; Ed Jerse, Cuyahoga County director of regional collaboration; and Hunter Morrison, director of the newly formed Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium.

Bell responded to the letter, dated Monday, on Tuesday and posted it on the Heights Observer website, along with Schneider’s letter. Bell wrote that while the forum was precipitated by the Oakwood development, it is intended to discuss all development that could come to the area.

“I cannot stress enough that this refers to any parcel of land in our communities,” Bell wrote. “As you can appreciate, Oakwood represents just one of many locations that have been discussed for redevelopment. As such, we chose to invoke its name in our publicity.”

Bell wrote that the forum isn’t intended for the panelists to be able to comment about specifics of the Oakwood Commons development, and instead those comments should be addressed .

“I’m glad that South Euclid has provided a number of community meetings on the topic of the Oakwood development and hope that they continue to operate in an open manner,” he wrote. “What we are hoping to achieve in hosting our forum is to get citizens to learn about the pros and cons of future development and to participate in future planning of proposals such as yours.

“What our panelists will be able to discuss is how cities with , aging housing stock and limited resources can continue to be viable communities in the face of outward migration.”

The public forum will take place at 7 p.m. at .

Anne Caruso April 06, 2011 at 03:29 PM
I hadn't heard of this forum until I read about in the Patch but it sounds like the Forum was formed to discuss new sustainable possibilities when developing land and reclaiming abandoned land in our inner ring suburb. If that is the case, First Interstate Properties does not belong on the panel since it is the old style kind of development.We need to start incorporating more sustainable development here. The technology exists, we just need leadership. I plan to attend the forum with the hopes that this is what it will be about.
Michelle Simakis (Editor) April 06, 2011 at 04:47 PM
Thanks for reading and sharing your opinion, Anne!

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