The Cleveland Heights-University Heights School Board unanimously approved a lease proposal for the former Millikin School at its regular meeting Aug. 7 at the building.
The non-binding agreement is meant to spell out some of the details of a possible lease before an actual lease is drafted to make sure all interested parties are on the same page.
The proposal suggests that the district lease the school property to the City of Cleveland Heights and sublease it to Mosdos Ohr Hatorah, the Orthodox Jewish school that has shown interest in the building at 1700 Crest Road.
Now that CH-UH has approved the idea, one of the next steps is to get the city on board.
The proposal indicates that Mosdos would need to make $1.5 million in permanent improvements to the building within the first 18 months of the lease, said Steve Shergalis, director of business services for CH-UH.
According to the district, CH-UH is required to include a “right of termination” clause in leases to be in accordance with Ohio law, which gives CH-UH the power to end the lease at any time. Mosdos wasn't comfortable with that, as its being asked to invest $1.5 million into the building. The city does not have to include that clause, which is why they would be involved.
The terms would be for 30 years at $1 per year, Shergalis said. There would be two consecutive options to renew for an additional 10 years at market value, and Mosdos would be responsible for all taxes, maintenance, insurance and utilities.
Many of the details won't be confirmed until an actual lease is drafted, such as what exactly the city's responsibilities would be and how the board would determine "market value" should Mosdos want to renew its lease in 30 years.
The lease proposal doesn't include the entire property, Shergalis said. The land includes a 46,555 square-foot building and a 6,500 square-foot barn. Alan Rapoport, an attorney representing Mosdos and former Cleveland Heights mayor, said the school district is still interested in keeping the stables as well as some other areas of the property.
School Board President Karen Jones that the district would discuss a long-term lease with Mosdos.
The community had attended and meetings off and on since February, urging the CH-UH School Board to the approximately 11-acre property for $550,000, and to make sure a call center didn’t move in.
That sparked a debate over the current value of the building, and both parties .
In addition, Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley confirmed the call center initially interested in the Millikin had a for the former , 3008 Monticello Blvd., at a public meeting in May.
Rapoport said that though Mosdos would have preferred to buy Millikin, they were open to hearing other options.
"From Mosdos' point of view, the bottom line is that they'd like to educate their children in that building. And the different ways of achieving that objective, all of those could be considered," he said.
The private Orthodox Jewish School would like to move its K-8 boys school and boys and girls preschools into Millikin, and sell its boys school on Warrensville Center Road, said Rabbi Baruch Chaim Manies, executive director, in May. The K-12 girls division would remain at its school on South Taylor Road.
Mosdos has already signed the lease proposal document, said Rapoport. Now that the school board has agreed to sign, the next step is to take it to the City of Cleveland Heights.
Mayor Ed Kelley said Law Director John Gibbon is reviewing the materials now.
Shergalis and Rapoport both said Kelley has shown optimism for the idea, but the lease proposal still needs to go through council.
And Mosdos would need a approved by both the Planning Commission and City Council.
Mosdos, as part of the future agreement, also needs to demonstrate it will likely raise the $1.5 million for improvements from its donors. The lease could be terminated by the district if that condition isn't met, Rapoport said.
Rapoport said that this agreement could be mutually beneficial — the district would no longer need to pay for upkeep of the building but still own the property, and Mosdos could use the half million they were planning to purchase the building with on improvements.
But there are still many details to be hammered out, he said. And even if everyone agrees to a lease proposal, it does not guarantee that everyone will agree to the final terms of the lease.
“What I’m hoping for, at the end of the day, is that there will be a partnership developed out of this between the school district and the Orthodox community, both who have an interest in educating children,” Rapoport said.