The Millikin controversy has come full circle.
The recent debate over the former school was sparked by word that , constructed in the mid-50's, at 1700 Crest Road.
Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley confirmed that was no longer on the table at a that included Cleveland Heights and University Heights city councils and the CH-UH School Board at the . About 400 people came to listen to the work session, the majority being Orthodox Jewish families from Mosdos Ohr Hatorah, which wants to buy Millikin.
Kelley said the developer previously interested in opening a call center in the school building, owned by the CH-UH City School District, has a purchase agreement for the former at 3008 Monticello Blvd, owned by Sarver Reality.
“We’ve worked very hard with him to find him another space,” Kelley said, referring to Geoffrey Loree, who also owns the building that now houses and . "… We ."
The call center will bring about 100 jobs, Kelley said.
The community has attended meetings 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.
The private Orthodox Jewish School would like to move its K-8 boys school and boys and girls preschools into Millikin, a 46,555 square-foot building with a 6,500 square-foot barn behind it, and sell its boys school on Warrensville Center Road, said Rabbi Baruch Chaim Manies, executive director. The K-12 girls division would remain at its school on South Taylor Road.
“I think (the call center decision) was very good for the whole community,” Manies said. “We were extremely happy. It looks like tonight that the board is finally going to make a move with the Millikin property. There are so many things on their plate I think they want to be finished."
Esther Greenberger, principal of the K-6 girls division at Mosdos, said in terms of the district's , what to do with the Millikin building “will be the easiest problem to solve.”
“We’re giving them a viable option of what to do with Millikin with money on the table,” Greenberger said. “It’s right in the heart of our community. It’s in the backyard of so many people who send their children to Mosdos.”
The building has been vacant since 2006.
"We're promising we'll put $1 million to $2 million into the building. What are they waiting for?" Greenberger said.
But CH-UH School Board member Kal Zucker said it’s not that simple.
“Any time a school board is faced with the privatization of public land, they have to realize that it is a life-long situation, and that means once it’s done, it’s done,” Zucker said. “As simple as the decision may appear in a moment in history, we are making a decision that will effect history from here on out.”
School Board member Ron Register added that the district still uses the Millikin Barn, formerly on the Severance Longwood Estate, as storage space. And the district is still digesting the newest appraisal, which determined the market value of both parcels on the Millikin land to be $770,000, compared to the best and highest appraisal it received in 2005 that said the building was worth $2.4 million.
Superintendent Douglas Heuer had said in February that the district would not sell to Mosdos because the offer wasn't high enough.
“… 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,” he said.
And that's when Mosdos sought it's own updated appraisal and told the district . Appraisers working for Mosdos said the building's value is $600,000 if used as a school.
Karen Jones, school board president, said now that the district has more information and both appraisals, the board will go into executive session at its meeting tonight (Tuesday) and consider, among other options, putting the property up for public auction.
"Our hope is to make a decision ... We do want to resolve the Millikin situation," Jones said. "We would like to get this off of our plate."
As they spoke, children stood nearby, holding signs that read "Save Millikin School" and "I am a CH-UH student, too."
Cleveland Heights City Councilwoman Bonnie Caplan said she hopes the board considers more than just "dollars and cents."
"I think it would be a disaster to encourage (Mosdos families) to move to another community because they’ve outgrown the facilities they’re already in," Caplan said. "We’re talking about children and families and a strong partner in our community that’s stable and healthy, and I think you have to take that into consideration."
"I can tell you that the school board is taking that into consideration, and we agree with what you are saying."
The proposal to close Gearity Professional Development School was also a big topic of discussion at the meeting. Look for more highlights soon.