Critical Updates.

05/24/22 Rebuttal to Library FAQ.

Heights Library recently updated its FAQ page for Coventry PEACE Campus, and like everything from the library about CPC, it’s filled with half-truths, cherry-picked info and misleading claims. Refuting it is exhausting (which may be the point; look up Brandolini’s law). But the community needs to know the truth about how the library leadership’s misguided decisions are threatening CPC’s existence.

You can read our rebuttal of the library’s FAQ by clicking on the button below. Here’s the short version:

FACT: In October 2020, the library and CPC entered into a lease agreement that was to automatically convert to a long-term lease in January 2022. One week prior to that date, the library board voted against honoring that commitment and has offered only hazy and often contradictory explanations about CPC’s viability. The tenants’ proposals for the long-term lease met or exceeded all of the expectations outlined in the 2020 agreement.

FACT: CPC is not subsidized by the library. In addition to paying rent, CPC pays for all building expenses, makes improvements and has built a reserve.

FACT: The library’s decision to hire an expensive private management firm, to do the work CPC used to do for free, and pass that cost onto the tenants by sharply increasing rents, threatens the entire project.

FACT: Library leadership has refused to meet with CPC leaders to discuss options that would be beneficial to all parties and to the community. Instead, the library board communicates sporadically with  CPC and when it does , only through its attorney.

FACT: Two of three alternatives for the building that library leaders have discussed internally involve tearing the building down. None involve ensuring that the current tenants can stay in the building.

  • CPC and the library entered into agreement in October 2020, and until the agreement expired in December 2021, the tenants’ rent did cover the costs of operating the building and ongoing upkeep. The tenants paid CPC, and in turn CPC paid the Library $10,000 per month in estimated utilities costs and $500 per month in rent. CPC also paid vendors directly for work they did to the building, or reimbursed the library in full, and provided materials and labor for improvements we implemented ourselves (total value in the tens of thousands). At the close of the term we had more than $26,000 in the bank, and the library owed us more than $38,000 in utility overpayments — bringing our total reserve to about $65,000. 

  • The 2020 agreement does not mention the need for a reserve at all, much less an expected amount. When we asked the library how much would be enough, their attorney replied, “There is no clear answer.”

  • We now know why they don’t want to answer that question. We learned from their internal communications, obtained through a public records request, that they established that $50,000 would be enough. 

  • We never asked to hold rents at 2021 levels. The long-term lease that should have taken effect in January would have increased the library’s rent revenue every year — doubling in 2022, doubling again in 2023 and increasing by 3% each year after that.

    • Our plan called for increased rents for tenants, some of whom were planning to expand in the building and would have started paying for their expanded spaces even before occupying them. The building costs were more than covered by the current tenants, and new tenants would have brought in revenues that could have been used to expand our reserve and plan for key capital projects. 

    • And this doesn’t even take into account fundraising — with the stability of a long-term lease, we would have vastly more opportunities for grants. CPC would have taken over all fundraising and/or financing for large-scale capital projects.

    • We also would have taken over accounting and bill-paying responsibilities from library staff.

    • At the urging of the Cleveland Foundation and other major funders, we asked the library to commit to using its rent revenue on expenses related to the building, like the parking lot, but the library refused. Still, we were prepared to move forward and take them at their word that rent revenue would be used to cover costs that funders would accept. (Funders don’t want grantees to be “pass-throughs,” with their grants ending up benefiting another institution that doesn’t qualify for or need the help.)

    • Selling a portion of the land for redevelopment has been discussed among library leaders. To quote an email from Nancy Levin: “Split the lot once again and sell the property on the east side for housing. This will probably be a net 0 gain since the school building would have to be demolished anyway.”
      • The library owns the building — of course it has spent money on it.


      • The costs mentioned here preceded the agreement signed in October 2020 and therefore have no bearing whatsoever on the library backing out of its commitment to grant a long-term lease.


      • Since October 2020, CPC has covered all building costs.
      • If the library had signed the long-term lease, we would have contributed $10,000 to the HVAC refurbishment immediately and fully reimbursed the library for the rest in six years or less. The library had agreed to that time frame before backing out of the lease deal.


      • Meanwhile, the building still does not have functioning air conditioning, and if it weren’t for CPC leaders contacting the vendor directly, we would not know that as of mid-May the vendor still had not ordered parts that were deemed necessary back in 2021.
      • The conversation between Hawthorne and Levin only happened because Hawthorne initiated it, in another attempt to resume communications that effectively ended when it became clear that the library board was not going to honor its commitment to convert to the long term lease. Since that vote, the board has communicated with CPC only through its attorney. 


      • Their ex-officio board member was the one reporting to us that everything was on track for the conversion to the long-term lease. He ended up being the only one to vote in favor of the conversion, which shows how much the rest of the board valued his input.
      • The board can meet with us, it’s choosing not to. At public meetings, board members absolutely can engage in dialogue with other parties — we’ve seen them do it on other topics. 


      • “In the last three months” is at least two months after voting against the long-term lease, so we can’t fathom why the library thinks this is meaningful. And a “visit” is not a meeting.

      Of course the library should seek a fair price for the building. Figure out what that is, and let’s start talking about a deal. Selling the building to CPC would solve every problem library leaders claim to have, and they should explain how refusing to even consider it is “a good business practice for handling taxpayer property.”

      • We are still reviewing the Cresco contract, but we already know that rents will be raised to cover the base cost of nearly $36,000 this year. We also know that there are “leasing fees” that will add more. And we also know that the base cost of the contract does not cover any actual work at the building — Cresco, which will not have a presence on-site, will charge per visit, a minimum of four hours each time, either at their business hours rate or overtime rate. So, $36,000 is just a starting point. 

      • As listing agent, Cresco/Playhouse Square Management also will receive a 6% fee of all leases signed,  for up to two years after their contract expires.


      • The library has not stated whether Cresco/Playhouse Square Management will collect fees from the leases the current tenants supposedly will receive soon (they were promised in March, then May, and now June). So if an existing tenant signs a two-year lease for $60,000, will Cresco pocket $4,000 for doing virtually nothing?


      • “Allow the tenants to focus on their work” is not only condescending, it reveals the library leadership’s complete lack of understanding of what makes CPC special. CPC is a tenant-run cooperative, and the tenants not only survived the pandemic, they’re thriving. Private management adds nothing but unnecessary costs that may well drive some tenants out of the building.
      • The library disqualified CPC’s bid on the RFP ($500/mo) because we didn’t have all the requested insurance. But the RFP stated clearly that proof of insurance was not due until the signing of the contract, and in our bid we committed to obtaining it. 

      • It’s also worth mentioning that CPC was the only woman-led business and Heights-based that responded to the RFP, which included this among the criteria: “The Owner [library] is committed to promoting participation in the project by small business enterprises, minority business, female business enterprises and local businesses.”


      • Our facilities manager is certified in non-profit facility management by the International Facility Management Association and has developed a comprehensive facility and sustainability plan that is suited specifically for the building.

      05/19/22 Update.

      We are so grateful to the many supporters who have shown up, written passionately, signed our petition and dared to trust us. We have made it this far because of your enthusiasm for our organizations, and our shared commitment to overcome the seemingly endless series of hurdles shoved into our path.

      As you probably know by now, the library board ignored the community again on Monday and voted to sign a contract with Cresco for private management of the building, a move that will raise our rents, possibly to the point of tenants needing to leave. We received a copy of the Cresco contract just a few hours before the meeting and we are still  reviewing it. We are curious about the services included in the base fee ($36,000) and the services not included  that will increase costs, likely significantly. We’ll share our thoughts on it soon.

      Some board members, who won’t speak with us directly, took advantage of the “we talk, you listen” meeting format to attack CPC for daring to question its decisions. One called us “unprofessional.” We need to respond to that.

      The majority of the library board members have never shown the slightest interest in our programming, our missions or how we serve the community. Most have never toured the building, never asked follow up questions or dared to discuss the vision that we thought they once all shared. 

      But we’re unprofessional.

      They’ve kept the decision-making process mostly secret. They have had only minimal deliberation in public, primarily during committee meetings, while the rest apparently has happened mostly behind closed doors in executive session. They also seem intent on ignoring the vast outpouring of community support for either the original plan to grant CPC a long-term lease or selling the building to CPC, or even just slowing down and meeting with us to find some mutually beneficial way forward. 

      But we’re unprofessional.

      This situation did not need to become adversarial. We were repeatedly assured that everything was on track for the conversion to the long-term lease in 2022. Then suddenly, in December, something changed. We still don’t know exactly what. 

      If they had legitimate concerns, even very late in the process, they could have worked with us instead of demanding more and more documents while refusing to explain exactly what they were looking for. More recently, they could have considered our recent offer to buy the building, which would solve all the problems they claim to have, rather than dismissing it with a one-sentence response relayed by their lawyer. They could have treated us as partners instead of opponents. But instead of engaging in an honest discussion, they’ve remained silent as library executive director Nancy Levin spreads false and misleading information about CPC, seemingly with no regard for the tenants’ reputations.

      But we’re unprofessional.

      Underneath all of this is an especially strange irony. In November, Levin told us that she was concerned that CPC might fail in a year or two, and that would reflect badly on the library as it prepared for a levy campaign in 2024. Setting aside the twisted logic (to prevent failure later she must force failure now?), consider how it has played out. Six months closer to the levy campaign, the library is mired in a deepening PR quagmire entirely of its own making. A lot of people care deeply about CPC, and they won’t be ignored into silence. The problem is not going away.

      All of this could have been avoided. And it can still be rectified, if they’ll come out of their bunker and talk — not at us, but with us. All we want is to get back to building CPC into the unique regional arts hub and unrivaled community asset that we, and most residents, know it can be.

      After months of asking the Library leadership to meet with us following their December vote denying our conversion to our long-term lease, we made the decision to issue a request for Public Records. On March 24, 2022 we sent our request to the Library asking for meeting notes & agendas, internal & external email communications, documents & contracts, etc. To see a list of what we requested, and what we have received, please see our Public Record Request page. As of May 11, 2022 we are awaiting a majority of the items we requested, but have now received meeting notes & agendas, and emails for Nancy Levin and Deborah Herrmann. We have reviewed well over 2,400 pages and will post some of the key items we discovered to this page. We will be updating this page on an on-going basis, so please check back for updates.

      12/17/22 Email from Nancy Levin to Cleveland Heights Mayor Seren


      In December 2021, Heights Library Executive Director Nancy Levin wrote to Cleveland Heights Mayor Seren to apprise him of the situation with Coventry PEACE Campus. The apparent intent was to prepare him for the impending Heights Library Board of Trustees vote against granting a long-term lease to CPC, as previously agreed.

      As in other emails and memos we’ve seen, there are too many misleading and false claims to address, but we think it’s important to point out the most damaging.

      Click on the image of the document below to read our rebuttal and to see a full copy of the email.

      12/17/22 Email from Nancy Levin to University Heights Mayor Brennan


      In December 2021, Heights Library Executive Director Nancy Levin wrote to University Heights Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan to appraise him of the situation with Coventry PEACE Campus. The apparent intent was to prepare him for the impending Heights Library Board of Trustees vote against granting a long-term lease to CPC, as previously agreed.

      As in other emails and memos we’ve seen, there are too many misleading and false claims to address, but we think it’s important to point out the most damaging.

      Click on the image of the document below to read our rebuttal and to see a full copy of the email.

      12/6, 12/7 & 12/20/21 Emails/Memos from Nancy Levin and Deborah Herrmann

      “Then we close up the building and demo.”

      That’s Deborah Herrman, Heights Library fiscal officer, in a December 7, 2021 internal email obtained through a public records request. It’s not the only reference we’ve found to emptying and demolishing the Coventry building, suggesting that library leadership has been planning (and perhaps hoping) for the tenants to fail, despite all evidence of the success of the CPC project.

      Here’s the full paragraph:
      “I think the property management RFP should have a paragraph that states if tenants fall below a number that will not allow for the rent to cover the utilities and fees than we have the right to cancel the property manager contract with 30 days after it fall below that threshold . Then we close up the building and demo.”

      If this were a real concern, you’d think they would address it with us, that they would work in partnership with us to develop a plan that ensures the tenants can stay while also meeting the costs of the building. But they won’t. After providing far more documentation than was called for in the previous lease agreement in order to convert to a long-term lease, library leaders have never explained in any detail why they believe CPC is not capable of continuing to manage the building and grow the project. But it’s clear they want us out.

      In a joint memo to the trustees from Nancy Levin and Deborah Herrmann they state: “We feel it would be prudent to reset the situation with the building and seek a public open process for hiring a property manager and attracting new tenants that are more fiscally sound.”

      What new tenants? Excellent question, considering how many times the library leadership has claimed to support the current tenants — who are not only sound but thriving. More important, however: “fiscally sound”? This is the game Herrmann and executive director Nancy Levin have been playing for years, making vague statements about CPC’s stability, then refusing to answer direct questions. How much is “enough”? They won’t tell us. When we asked this question of them directly in a meeting on Dec. 10, 2021, their attorney said there is “no clear answer” to that question. Through our review of the documents, we have learned they actually did have a range they were looking for — a range we had actually reached.

      CPC is NOT subsidized! CPC covers ALL building expenses, IN ADDITION TO making improvements, paying rent and building a reserve. But the Heights Library’s leaders seem intent on forcing the tenants out with unnecessary and dramatic rent increases and possibly tearing down the building.

      Why do we believe this? The library leadership went on to choose the highest-bidding private management provider. If the library board approves the contract, which they are poised to do on 5/16, the library will pay nearly $3,000 per month in base fees — much of the work performed will be billed over and above that. The library leadership also commissioned a completely unnecessary “feasibility study” (almost $15,000), but didn’t even wait for that report before plowing ahead with private management. All of these costs will be pushed onto the tenants, who have been managing the building at no cost to the library for four years.

      If all the tenants are forced out by jacked-up rents, then what? Internal emails reveal a hodge-podge of comments, but nothing close to a plan.

      Here’s Levin:
      “What if we demolished the building? 2. Demolish the building at a cost of approximately $400k and enlarge the park area. This will unburden the cost of all future maintenance of the building and enlarge the green space for the use of the public. We could build a restroom and classroom at a later date.”

      The library has not sought any expert input on the cost of demolishing the Coventry building, which is built into a hillside over a buried creek. The “$400k” Levin cites is probably a reference to a comment made over 5 years ago  at a meeting of the CH-UH Board of Education, which owned the property at the time. And it was a guess by a school district official, not a meaningful estimate. This is how carefully the library leadership is planning for the future of this beloved community site.

      Also, where is the money for a “restroom and classroom” coming from? Levin wants everyone to believe that on the one hand, the library can’t afford to let the CPC nonprofit businesses stay in the building, who are paying all the bills plus rent, but it can easily find millions to tear down the building, create park space and build new facilities on it.

      In the same email, Levin muses: “What if we sold the building? Split the lot once again and sell the property on the east side for housing.” (This is not the only mention of redevelopment of the site, which the community strongly opposed in 2017, when it came to light that the Board of Education was planning to turn it over to the city for unspecified development.)

      Nowhere in the emails we’ve seen do Levin or Herrman show the slightest interest in what the community wants. It never seems to cross their minds. They have no plan beyond forcing the tenants out of the building. They practically admit as much in this line: “With all of the talented and creative minds in the picture, if the Building is no longer contemplated, I’m sure there will be lots of ideas to fill a bigger blank canvas.”

      “I’m sure there will be lots of ideas.” Here’s an idea — a hub for arts organizations and other non-profits, like residents said they wanted when the school district commissioned a committee to gather input after closing the Coventry School. That led to what is now the Coventry PEACE Campus, an arts incubator and community services hub employing hundreds and serving thousands, with long-term plans for growth. And the library leadership wants to throw it all away, for reasons it refuses to explain.

      You can help us prevent this disaster:

      For more detailed notes, assessments and documents, and for ways you can help right now, go to

      12/21/21 Email from Nancy Levin to Library Board

      The Heights Library leadership is misleading everyone about Coventry PEACE Campus. CPC is NOT subsidized! CPC covers ALL building expenses, IN ADDITION TO making improvements, paying rent and building a reserve. But the Heights Library’s leaders seem intent on forcing the tenants out with unnecessary and dramatic rent increases and possibly tearing down the building.

      In our review of the documents we received, we found a memo sent by Heights Library Executive Director Nancy Levin to the library’s board of trustees on Dec. 21, 2021, the day before the board voted against granting the long-term lease that had been negotiated for more than a year. Virtually every line of this memo is misleading. We don’t have time to correct all of the disinformation, but it’s important to understand her narrative rests on one deliberate deception: Levin never once acknowledges that CPC covers all building expenses — totaling more than $450,000 in the last four years. The rents that she claims are too low are over and above those expenses, and would have risen steadily under the long-term lease that the library board abruptly rejected, at her urging, in December.

      Ironically, Levin’s narrative, if it were accurate, is actually one of mismanagement on the part of the Library, and her “solution” is to waste money on an unnecessary “feasibility” study (almost $15,000), then not even wait for that report before rushing ahead to hire a private management firm (at a base rate of nearly $3,000 per month), all to take over work that CPC has performed for free for years. 

      After reviewing over 1,000 pages of emails obtained through a public records request, we have concerns that this is part of a ruse to cover up the real agenda: force the tenants out with rent increases and tear down the building. We’ll have more on that soon.

      Meanwhile, the library board refuses to communicate with us except through attorneys. What possible reason could they have to not meet with us? Whose interests do they represent, Levin’s or the community’s? If they are so concerned about their levy in a couple years, like they have stated, how does increasing the cost of operating the building and driving out well-respected, long term, dedicated nonprofits help them?

      This is what we’re up against — bad faith “negotiations” (which they admit by the fact they applied the 25% rent increase in January), relentless disinformation, incoherent narratives, constantly shifting demands, and silence from the board. But we will continue to reveal the truth, because regardless of where anyone stands on the future of CPC, every taxpayer and voter deserves to know how the library’s leadership operates.

      05/14/22 Letter from Ray Gonzalez to Heights Library Board of Trustees

      Ray Gonzalez, a board member of the Fund for the Future of Heights Libraries, just sent us a copy of an email he sent to the Library Board of Trustees and we are sharing it with his permission. Ray is one of the founding members, and served as both President and Vice President of the original Coventry PEACE organization. The organization that helped get the Coventry PEACE playground built, and was the caretaker of the playground until the Library took ownership. Mr. Gonzalez has also volunteered on various committees for the new Coventry PEACE organization and has a unique connection to both CPC and Heights Library.

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      What is Coventry PEACE Campus?

      When the school district sought to divest itself from the former Coventry Elementary School building in 2017, leaving its future uncertain, the leaders of all the tenant organizations and a broad base of community supporters came together in a grassroots movement to propose ways to preserve and grow the thriving culture and service ecosystem that had organically taken root there. From this effort, the Coventry PEACE Campus came into being. Coventry P.E.A.C.E., Inc. is the non-profit overseeing the maintenance, sustainability, renovation and development of the Coventry PEACE Building, which houses several local nonprofits. It is our goal to provide an accessible, sustainable, more efficient, and affordable home for these nonprofits, and to attract new organizations to the building.