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Council Shows Support For Residents Who Want Mosdos at Millikin

Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley said the CH-UH School District should schedule a special meeting to hear from people who want Mosdos Ohr Hatorah at the former Millikin building

As people walked into Cleveland Heights City Council Chambers Tuesday night, it was clear why the room was filled with more than 100 people.

Children held up signs that read “Sell Millikin to Mosdos.”

The neighbors that live near the vacant Millikin School, owned by the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, attended the council meeting to voice their concern that the district won't to sell the building to Mosdos Ohr Hatorah. The K-12 private Orthodox Jewish has offered to buy the building for $550,000, and residents say the board has not given Mosdos a fair shot to negotiate or further discuss the offer.

Although Mayor Ed Kelley said he could not officially take a side on the issue, he did say he would have the city send a letter to the school board asking for either a special meeting with city council to discuss just this issue, or one for the group of concerned citizens, or both.

When neighbors attended the school board meeting two weeks ago, the district distributed a press release that said the $550,000 price was not right.

Superintendent Douglas Heuer said in the press release that when the school first closed in 2006, it was appraised at $2.4 million.

 “… we remain firmly committed to ensuring this community receives fair value for its investment. There is simply no reason for the district to sell this property at an unfairly low price,” Heuer said.

The board put the property up for sale in 2006 and received four offers, he said. The highest was $500,000.

In addition, the board made formal requests for proposals in 2009 and 2011, but no one sent an offer, Heuer said.

"Recently, the board has once again engaged in a conversation about leasing the property, not selling it. Given the current real estate market, the board is concerned that a sale at this time would not provide for sufficient return in value for taxpayers," Heuer said.

City Economic Development Director Howard Thompson said a company from out of the state is interested in leasing the property, and although he can't yet provide details, it will bring jobs to the area.

Some council members said they agreed with the residents — a school or something other than a business should be there.

“I’m totally with you. I think it would be commercial use of that building would really be a terrible thing for that community,” said Councilwoman Bonita Caplan. “I know I wouldn’t like a commercial business next to my house or in my neighborhood … Nonetheless, it’s not up to us.”

Councilman Dennis Wilcox said the school board should have a special meeting to hear from Mosdos and residents, and “at least let us know what the rules are. Let everybody have a fair chance.”

City Councilman Jason Stein, whose children attend the school, has advocated that CH-UH sell to Mosdos. The school would invest $1 million in the building, restore the playground and bring children back to the neighborhood, he said.

He said the former Fuchs Mizrachi School building in University Heights was recently appraised at less than $800,000 and is about the same size as Millikin.

People at the meeting noted that the real estate market has since tanked and the school is now “an eyesore” after sitting unused for so long. It’s likely not worth as much, they sai. And the district has spent about $30,000 to maintain it.

Jessica Cohen said about 50 people tried to attend the special School Board meeting before the council meeting at 5:30 p.m., but they were not allowed to speak.

Kelley said he was surprised by that.

"I'm disappointed that a group of people show up at a public meeting and the school board didn't give them 10 minutes of their time," he said.

Look for more details from the meeting soon.

Akiva Feinstein February 22, 2012 at 02:49 PM
If I may make a correction. The Orthodox community is not angry as if we are entitled to the property which we are clearly not. The school with the highest bid should get it. We are simply concerned and anxious that all discussion about the future of this property (which is so crucial to our neighborhood besides if Mosdos moves in there or not) has been completely closed- there has been no disclosure of their rules, expectations, or any opportunity for a real discussion in the process.
Michelle Simakis (Editor) February 22, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Thanks for adding to the article, Akiva.
Nina Woolf February 22, 2012 at 03:56 PM
It is always wonderful when a school is willing and able to expand. However, why can't the school do so with the property it already has - that lot clearly needs some work! Moving to Milikin would mean buying one old building and leaving another one - zero-sum gain for the city overall. The school should ask for help from the city government for help looking at all available options and find an optimal solution for all parties. If there was something in the works that would help resident find employment, bring tax revenue to the city and would pay fair value for the building - that's a deal worth exploring in my opinion. As far as "closed doors" - couldn't agree more. Residents should be made aware of the City's intentions to be able to voice their opinions and give feedback and suggestions.
Michelle Simakis (Editor) February 22, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Thanks for bringing your point of view to the conversation, Nina.
Akiva Feinstein February 22, 2012 at 09:48 PM
(Nina, )Mosdos' current building is really a large synagogue with a lot of classrooms- it was never meant to be a school thus has great limitations. It's very old and much of it is unusable for school needs. It has not real playground as you mentioned. Millikin could have a baseball diamond and large playground that students and local residents too. As far as worrying about another empty building, it's right next to Oakwood so it might just end up getting fixed up or made into a parking lot some time soon. It's not clear whether the kind of company that would move into a residential location in a neighborhood that does not want them is the kind of company that would bring jobs to the area. Schools like Mosdos have very large staff (over 80) and pay a lot of payroll tax. Call center employees very likely would not live in the district and at least half of their $ would leave CH. Very many of the Mosdos staff live and work in CH. It's not the city's intentions - it's school board that is holding back.
Eric Mack February 23, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Or Mosdos's current building on Warrensville Ctr Road could be sold to the call center - a win-win for Mosdos, the call center and the city. The call-center employees would have easier access to their worksite, since it's on a main road, than they would to the Milliken site, which is almost ½ mile from any main road.
Eric Mack February 24, 2012 at 07:42 AM
Regarding the notion that the offer price of ~$500,000 is not sufficient: Municipalities and non-profits often sell old large buildings for $1, just to get them off their hands, and to avoid shelling out money for upkeep and insurance, knowing that the buyer will have to spend significant funds to fix it up, and can be counted on to have a significant payroll (re: taxes).
Tifanny Barnes February 24, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Lease the building to Mosdos for $1 a year for 15-20 years and have them pay to renovate it--this has been suggested by many others. Not GIVE it to them for $1. This is the second time on Patch that they have talked about the community GIVING them Millikin. Or, lease it to someone who will bring money to the city--as others have said.
Akiva Feinstein February 26, 2012 at 04:04 AM
NO one ever said to give "them" Mosdos. Who is this "them" you are referring to, Tiffany? You are so opposed to the Oakwood development but yet are encouraging a business to move into Milliken in the middle of a residential neighborhood near no major streets?
Eric Mack February 26, 2012 at 12:17 PM
I do not speak for Mosdos. In addition, I have no relatives either working or learning there.
SRULY March 02, 2012 at 01:03 PM
The NEWS RELEASE dated November 27 2012 released by the School Board on the week of February 29th 2012 showed nothing but contempt for the residents of the Millikin area and the Mosdos Ohr Hatorah. The school board stated that “they have been informed unofficially” from someone in Solon, regarding Mosdos’ intentions for the use of the property. Then the board proceeds to accuse Mosdos of being disingenuous. Don’t you think that they should have checked and confirmed the validity of such unofficial statements before accusing a respected community school of lying? Furthermore they state in the news release, that there are many homes in this immediate area that are for rent or abandoned . The Millikin area is one of the most stable areas in the city, and is a model for what an integrated area should be. It is great asset to the entire city of Cleveland Heights and as a resident of the area I find it hard-pressed to find these many homes that are for sale or abandoned . Where did the school board find their facts? I find this news release to be racist, anti-Semitic, and downright insulting. Would the school board have responded so disrespectfully to a different ethnic group? I appeal to the entire Cleveland Heights, University Heights communities to remember the total disrespect and disregard that this school board has shown , and continues to show, to our city, when it comes time to vote for the school board. Sruly Wolf

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