The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education closed the Coventry Elementary School in 2007. One year later, the Coventry School Study Committee — made up of 23 citizens from both cities — released its recommendations for the future of the building. After six public meetings, the committee strongly urged preserving the adjacent Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Park & Playground, and leasing the building in order to cover the school district’s costs (a quick sale was deemed highly unlikely, given the glut of empty school buildings already on the market.). The report called special attention to “a conceptual outline of a proposal to convert Coventry to a multi-tenant reuse by a potential consortium of [local] arts and nonprofits organizations.”
In 2010, that imagined “consortium” began to take shape when Ensemble Theatre and the district agreed to a lease. Some other tenants came and went, but the building — renamed Coventry Commons — took on its current identity with the additions of Lake Erie Ink; Village Childcare; Urban Oak School; Family Connections; FutureHeights; Reaching Heights; and ARTFUL. Combined they serve more than 5,000 people annually.
In May 2017, the tenants were informed that the school district intended to sell the building, and that their leases would convert to month-to-month in July. Suddenly faced with uncertain futures, the tenants united to press the district and the City of Cleveland Heights to commit to one-year lease renewals and an open, collaborative process to explore developing the site as a permanent arts, culture and education center.
After dozens of people rose to speak in support of the tenants at City Council meetings in June, Council agreed to solicit public input before releasing a formal request for proposals (RFP) for development plans, and to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding that extends the tenants’ leases through June 2018.