June 30, 2015 [Thomas Jewell, special to cleveland.com]
Municipal Court Housing Division officials are already impressed with the turnout of interested observers in the case of two condemned apartment buildings overlooking Shaker Square.
And up to now, that’s just been for the pre-trial conferences.
It’s a trend that Jay Westbrook with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute would like to see continue with the actual trial set to open Thursday (July 2).
“I was told that this has been the most organized, persistent community presence they’ve seen in the courtroom in 20 years,” Westbrook, a former Cleveland City Councilman, said at the June 25 Shaker Square Alliance meeting.
The buildings in question are located at 13020 Drexmore Road and 2804 South Moreland, owned by Shakertown Apartments, a limited liability corporation.
The limits of that liability could now be determined in the courtroom of Judge Raymond Pianka, where the owners have been presenting proposals to transfer the deeds or bring someone on board to finally fix the buildings up.
Shaker Square Area Development Corp. Board President George Palda remains unconvinced that this proposal is going to work.
“I’m troubled by the fact that Paul Gabrail was a willing buyer and was rebuffed,” Palda said. “Why wouldn’t you accept the offer with the most money?”
Gabrail owns the Shaker Square Apartments and said earlier he has made three offers on the buildings.
Ohio Fair Lending Coalition Director Chip Bromley explained that unlike cities such as Cleveland Heights, which can take neglected buildings into receivership, Cleveland pursues criminal charges and fines.
Former Cuyahoga County Commissioner and state Representative Mary Boyle noted that the buildings would probably qualify for tax credits and other funding possibilities for much-needed improvements — if an owner was so inclined.
The Shakertown trial will begin July 2 at 9 a.m. in Courtroom 13-B of the Cleveland Municipal Court Building, 1200 Ontario Street.
Meanwhile, over on Larchmere Boulevard, the long-vacant Sedlak building is in what is known as a 30-day “Redemption Period,” after no bids were received at a Sheriff’s Sale on June 8.
But at the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, they’re still saying it’s too soon to celebrate, because the property has not been conveyed to the county yet,” Bromley said.
The Redemption Period allows for the transfer of the property, and also provides incentive to involve a new purchaser.
“Then hopefully sometime in July we can jump up and down,” if the long-awaited transfer to the county Land Bank becomes official, Bromley added.
Bill Whitney, Chief Operating Officer for the county Land Bank, expressed guarded optimism shortly after the Sheriff’s Sale, saying that he has seen too much legal maneuvering over the past three years to claim victory yet.
And while it’s not a done deal yet, Shaker Square Alliance officials learned Tuesday that the proposed Woodland-Larchmere Commercial Historic District has been recommended by the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board for official designation.
Consultants Wendy Hoge Naylor and Diana Wellman said the Ohio Historic Preservation Office will now now forward documents to the National Park Service which will review the proposed listing over the next 2-3 months.