Statements regarding current state of CPC project.
Jun. 16, 2022
Joint statement from the nonprofits of Coventry PEACE Campus.
We, the nonprofit businesses located in the Coventry PEACE Campus (CPC) building remain steadfast in our individual missions and to the concept of the CPC project. Our missions are more fully realized by collaborating with our colleagues and partner organizations, resulting in more diverse programming and the ability to reach significantly more beneficiaries. We will continue to work together to ensure the long-term viability of all our organizations, explore new opportunities, negotiate new leases, and build on the vision of the CPC project.
After years of negotiating and planning, and with no discussion or collaboration, the Library Board members severed the trust we had in them and created unnecessary chaos when they chose not to honor the conversion to a long-term lease with CPC. With the absence of a plan, the Library is making decisions that will impact our individual organizations and the CPC project for years to come. It is our hope that the Library Trustees will move beyond just words of support, and join us in a true, robust, working relationship. Our trust in their commitment to our partnership has been broken, but it is not irreparable. It will require an honest, open discussion where questions can be asked and answered in the moment, and dedication to real collaboration. It will require that this project be seen not as an “experiment,” but as the fully developed plan that it is, which will bring benefits to both parties and our shared communities.
Our vision of the CPC building does not consist of fancy, unnecessary upgrades or large, name-brand facility management companies. Rather, it is one of a community collaborative where we work hand-in-hand to ensure a creative, inviting and safe community-centered space. We are resourceful, responsible and ethically determined to keep this space accessible, affordable and responsive to the needs of our organizations and those we serve. The combination of a modern library with its beautiful park and green space, a bustling commercial district, and a creative reuse of a beloved building filled with art, community and education, is an opportunity to create a lasting legacy for this city. These are factors that encourage young families to move here and keep longtime residents happy. This trifecta can put the Heights back on the map as a progressive, innovative place to live. A community thrives when the needs of its citizenry are met and exceeded. Together we do just that.
On June 6th, the Library shared a draft of the proposed rent rates that they will be charging our organizations and stated that they expect new leases to commence in July or August. Their story about how they were going to establish new rental rates has changed multiple times. Early on they claimed Cresco would establish the rates. Then they said the study they commissioned from Allegro would determine them. Then we were told their attorney would do so. Most recently, we were told that the Allegro report was used; however, nobody other than the Library is allowed to see this report (which was paid for by tax-payer money), and they have not shared with us any of the findings. Thus, we have no way to know what data was used to determine the cost of operating the building, how they set the amount for the “reserve account,” or how they concluded that the rates they would charge CPC are “below market rate” as they claim. What we do know is that their decision to hire an outside facility management company (Cresco) instantly raised operational costs by a minimum of $33,000/yr.
On average, our rent rates are being raised by approximately 64% from the current rates, with some long-time tenants facing more than a doubling of their rent. If tenants were to move forward with their planned expansions, FutureHeights would face an increase of 75%, ARTFUL 100%, and Reaching Heights 142%. If the building were 100% occupied, the Library would collect $418,000 in year 1, and over the first 5 years they would collect $2,220,828. For context, 2021 operating costs for the CPC building were less than $125,000, and we estimate 2022 costs to be about $180,000.
The proposed rent is made up of a base rent and an operational rent. The Library stated that the base rent is what will create the “reserve account” mentioned above, and the operational rent will cover the operating costs, such as paying for Cresco’s services, utilities, general maintenance and repairs, yet they have not told us which utilities are included in this portion. The base rent will increase by 3% each year, and the operational rent will be adjusted annually. With no input into what projects or upgrades are deemed necessary, we have no way of knowing how much the operational rent might change each year and would be faced with fluctuating rent rates from year to year.
In addition, we do not yet know if CPC tenants will be allowed to use event spaces for free/discounted costs, which has been a key factor in the operations of several of our current tenants. We also do not know if the general community would have access to renting the event spaces, what the cost would be, or who would manage that process. Nor do we know if such a program would incur an additional charge from Cresco that would affect the yearly operational cost of the building, which would be charged back to the tenants.
We are left with many outstanding questions; but the fact remains, increases of 50-140% are nearly impossible to absorb in just a few months’ time, and the hope for our organizations to remain in the CPC building is dwindling.
With gratitude and hope,
The non-profits of Coventry PEACE Campus
– Building Bridges Arts Collaborative
– CHUH Teachers Union
– Coventry P.E.A.C.E.
– Grace Communion of Cleveland
– Lake Erie Ink
– Reaching Heights
– Singers’ Club of Cleveland
– Studio Institute
Statements from the Individual Organizations
Lake Erie Ink: We are now in our 6th month of not having a secure lease, and still not knowing what to expect when one is offered. We have questions that we hope will be answered soon. It has been a challenge having to develop our organization’s budget for this coming year without this information. Like many youth serving organizations, we plan our programs 3 months out; that means putting together our materials and plans for our on site after school programs that start in September. Not knowing for sure where we will be in the fall has put this planning on hold. Instead of spending time planning for youth programming, we are spending time waiting to find out what is coming and exploring what other options may be available to us. Click here to learn more about Lake Erie Ink.
We have no idea what the management company is going to ask from us. We have yet to meet with them and have been waiting for them to contact us as we were told they were going to. And, since we did not hear anything from the other company hired to do a feasibility study, we don’t know how they are valuing the space we use. If they haven’t seen the space, how can they know what to charge for it?
ARTFUL: Over the last five years, ARTFUL’s staff, board and artists have expended significant time, energy and funds to maintain and upgrade The Coventry PEACE Building. Our Executive Director became certified in Non Profit Facilities Management and our Board President designed an online portal to manage maintenance requests, quarterly and yearly maintenance and scheduling of common spaces. As a collective we have devised a sustainable plan for the future while staying committed to our individual missions. The library leaderships’ erroneous assumptions, complete lack of engagement and frankly suspicious activity has put every one of us in jeopardy. Click here to learn more about ARTFUL.
Singers’ Club of Cleveland: After struggling through COVID’s challenges, the Singers’ Club of Cleveland looked forward to a return to normalcy this year. We should be putting time and energy into programming and long-term planning. Instead, our attention has been diverted to the very real possibility that we’ll have to leave Coventry just a year after we made a long-term commitment to it. It’s been six months since we were put on a month-to-month lease. We think there’s a substantial rent increase coming, but the details are nowhere to be found.
No business can operate effectively if it doesn’t know where its home will be and doesn’t understand its costs. Whatever rationale the Library presents for the changes it is making, their lack of communication and disregard for Coventry tenants is shocking. Click here to learn more about Singers’ Club of Cleveland.
Reaching Heights: Our mission is to mobilize community resources to foster highly valued public schools that provide all CH-UH students a successful education. CPC is an ideal location for us to be surrounded by non-profits that directly serve the students and staff of our public schools. Now, staying in CPC is in jeopardy for us since the library expects us to pay more than double – from $500 to $1000 per month – starting in August. We often use the shared meeting spaces in the building but will the library now charge us even more to use them? We cannot justify increasing our operating costs so dramatically and without notice. This ongoing month-to-month lease has been stressful and distracting especially when a good plan was in place and ready to launch in January. The library staff and board have not treated us like community partners and have shown a complete lack of interest in the amazing collaboration that is Coventry PEACE. Click here to learn more about Reaching Heights.
Grace Communion Cleveland: I am the pastor of Grace Communion Cleveland, and we were so grateful to move into Coventry Peace Campus in October 2021. We love the collaborative way the tenants involve the community in activities. This makes Cleveland Heights a great place to live, work, and shop. Our congregation has been helping three schools in the district with needs such as homelessness and food insecurity. We want to stay in the building and plan for the future. Click here to learn more about Grace Communion Cleveland.
We are very concerned that the current situation will lead to us stepping back from our plans to engage and help the community. We are hopeful that we can stay and continue the work we have begun in the community. Click here to learn more about Grace Communion Cleveland.
Cleveland Heights Teachers Union: Being at Coventry Peace with other non-profits dedicated to the Heights has been enriching for the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union. We moved here with the expectation of a 5 to 10 year lease so that we could plan well into the future. We are baffled as to why our Coventry community is being threatened when we have proven that we can meet our financial obligations. Click here to learn more about Cleveland Heights Teachers Union.
FutureHeights: Without a stable home base to conduct operations, we are forced to divert attention away from the community’s needs just to confront our own basic office needs. It’s a constant question mark. This is an ineffective and unworkable situation for a community development organization like FutureHeights. Click here to learn more about FutureHeights.
Coventry PEACE: As a result of the Library’s decision to not convert CPC to the agreed upon long-term lease,, we have lost out on a minimum of $18,000 in new revenue over these six months. Planned expansions, grant applications, and continued growth of the Coventry PEACE Campus have been forced to be put on hold. We have lost new tenants that we had secured LOIs from because we cannot issue new leases. We are unable to commit to community members and organizations that want to use our spaces for special events because we have no way to know if we’ll be in the building beyond the month we are in, if we’ll even have the option to rent spaces to them for events in the future, or how much it will cost them to use those spaces. The Library was concerned about CPC’s ability to get credit, but made a decision that would only further delay CPC’s building of a credit profile. At this point, we would have been 6 months into the CPC plan which would have, at the very least, offered stability to the tenant organizations so that they could have continued with their development and programming rather than operating in holding patterns and diverting precious resources to find new locations and to budget for an unknown amount of rent increase. With a long-term lease in hand, CPC would have already been working with funders to obtain grants for capital improvements the Library is unlikely to take on, at least not without passing on those costs to tenants who cannot afford them. Instead, we have been at the Library’s whim being told initially leases were coming in March, then told April, then told May, and now we’re being told the end of June. There is no clear plan being communicated from the Library, other than having said an outside facility management company will be controlling the building and tenants’ rents will be raised. Unfortunately, what is absolutely clear is that not only is this project in jeopardy, but the future of the building itself is in peril. Click here to learn more about Coventry PEACE.
Apr. 12, 2022
Project Status Update
We are encouraged by recent discussions CPC had with the Cleveland Foundation regarding a program that could potentially alleviate concerns the Library has voiced, as well as CPC concerns, but we are discouraged that the Library board will not meet with us to further discuss this development. Here is an update covering developments of the last couple of months up until now.
The Library Board voted against the conversion to the long-term lease and has placed Coventry PEACE, and thus the nonprofit businesses located in the Coventry PEACE Building on a month-to-month holdover. They have increased our rent by 25% per month and we are still responsible for covering all the costs of the building, including a $9,127 per month payment to the Library to cover utility costs and maintenance, in addition to other costs we pay for directly to our vendors. The decision to not convert to the longterm lease has prevented key expansions from occurring, and has made it impossible for us to fill our vacant spaces because we do not have the ability to issue long-term leases. This has resulted in CPC losing out on an additional $3,000+/mo in rent from our tenants – money we would use to help cover maintenance costs, to help fund our ongoing LED lighting conversion project, and to build a reserve account for larger repairs and improvements.
The Library has decided to hire an outside building management company (a service that CPC has been providing for free, and would continue to provide if the conversion had been granted) and will soon be signing a contract with Cresco Playhouse Square to fulfill this role. According to the RFP submission by Cresco Playhouse Square, the minimum monthly fee they will charge for their services will be $2,750 plus additional hourly rates of $45-67.50/hr billed in 4 hour increments, plus new lease fees of 6% (gross rents for the term), 4% lease renewal fees (gross rents for the term) and construction management fees of 5%-10% of total job costs. This bid by Cresco Playhouse Square was apx. 50% higher than a bid submitted by Simplified Solutions, and about 400% higher than the bid CPC submitted – both of which were rejected by the Library as being unqualified bids. The Library has not yet fully clarified if this new cost will be paid for by tax payers or through higher rents charged to the tenants.
In addition to the hiring of an outside facility management company, the Library has also hired Allegro Realty to conduct a facility feasibility study for the cost of just under $15,000. Unlike the one CPC commissioned IFF to do a few years ago, this one is not taking into consideration the programming, needs and budgets of the businesses already located in the building, and will primarily be looking at other local rent rates in order to advise the Library as to what rent rates they should charge the tenants going forward. It is CPC’s feeling that this study is redundant and not nearly as in-depth as the previous study conducted. Our preference would have been to re-engage IFF to update their study – they are an experienced company that specializes in studies for nonprofits and they are already familiar with the building and project.
We are in the midst of reconciling the accounting of the utilities fees we have paid to the Library for the period of October 2020 to the end of December 2021. During this period, the Library kept utility accounts and some maintenance contracts in their name and CPC paid between $9,127 – $10,000/mo to the Library to cover all of these costs. At the end of the term the Library provided an accounting to us which showed that CPC paid more than what the actual costs were. The Library stated that we have an overage of around $16,000, but upon our review we identified what we believe to be errors which result in the Library owing us just under $39,000. We have submitted our findings to the Library and are awaiting their response. The previous time we went through a reconciliation with the Library in 2020, they stated publicly that we owed them nearly $100,000, but after our review of their accounting it was determined that we actually owed them nothing, which the Library agreed to. Looking back at all of the accounting from the time the Library purchased the building to December 2021, it shows that CPC and the nonprofit businesses have paid over $450,000 to the Library to cover the costs of the building and rent to the Library. This is in addition to any costs we paid for directly for maintenance or improvements, or directly to vendors ourselves.
Despite CPC and our partner tenant organizations’ calls for the Library to meet with us, the Library Board has turned us down. Our current ask is for the Library Board to pause their process and hold off on signing any contracts with Cresco Playhouse Square so that both parties can meet to discuss the exciting potential of working with the Cleveland Foundation. CPC is in discussions with the Cleveland Foundation in regard to a program called Collateral Funding which has the potential of alleviating the concerns the Library has voiced, as well as the concerns CPC has. In order to pursue this potential solution further, the Cleveland Foundation has requested that our two organizations meet to discuss the details we would be required to provide to them.
Jan. 06, 2022
Project Status Update
The Heights Libraries Board’s abrupt rejection of the Coventry PEACE Campus agreement that it previously embraced caught us off guard, and left us little time to respond before the holidays. Please be assured, we have not given up. Here is what we can tell you at this point:
The tenants have not made any decisions regarding their future in the building. We are now on month-to-month leases. We are consulting with attorneys about the way the Heights Libraries Board conducted its recent meetings and our legal options. We are considering the Library’s request to meet and will be asking for a detailed agenda.
Nancy Levin’s comments to the press have contributed to misunderstandings about CPC’s lease. CPC is not “taxpayer subsidized.” The tenants pay for all of the utilities and building maintenance. In 2021 that was over 100,000.00 dollars. In addition to that we also pay “rent” while putting aside funds for repairs and upgrades. CPC pays 100% of the building costs; the rent we pay to the Library is in addition to those costs and is an unrestricted source of funds for the Library.
Under the long-term lease that should have begun on Jan. 1, the Library would have collected $225,000 in “rent” as well as having ALL expenses covered, In the first nine years. These outstanding numbers and the fact that we met all requirements for the automatic conversion prove that CPC is thriving! New long- and short-term tenants joined us in 2021, and more were interested in coming aboard in 2022. Three existing tenants have been planning significant expansions. All of that is now in jeopardy for no clear reason.
We plan to hold a public meeting to talk about all of this. The date will be determined soon.
We are disappointed, but as far as we’re concerned, this is not over. We encourage you to continue to contact Library board members to express your support for the Coventry PEACE Campus tenants and for the vision that they once shared. Thank you.
Dec. 23, 2021
It’s Time to Choose PEACE
We’re shocked and saddened by Heights Library’s sudden, 11th-hour turn against the Coventry PEACE Campus project, but we’re not giving up
They say that when people show you who they are, you should believe them. In recent days, as the Heights Libraries board appears poised to flush years of work and community support down the toilet, we have realized that Heights Libraries Executive Director Nancy Levin showed us who she is in July 2020, and we were stunned but chose to treat it as an aberration. That was a mistake.
At that time, Coventry PEACE Inc. was still in the early stages of negotiating the terms of a long-term lease for the tenants of the Coventry building, a transition that was planned from the day Heights Libraries took ownership of the entire property. In comments to Cleveland Heights Patch, Levin mischaracterized the status of the negotiations, implied that the tenants owed the library money and raised the possibility of just tearing the building down.
It felt like an attempt to sabotage the negotiations. Last night we got the same feeling, reading about new attacks from Levin in Patch.
This is not how we imagined spending the last few weeks of an extremely challenging year. We thought we’d get a brief respite to recharge before diving into the exciting, long-planned work of taking CPC to the next level. Instead, here we are again, forced to correct misinformation, chase moving goal posts, prove the value of organizations that serve thousands of people, and justify a plan the library once embraced.
The following quotes are from the Patch article cited above.
1) Levin: “After all these years they still don’t have the funds to safely and responsibly manage the building.”
This is false. First of all, it hasn’t been “years” — we took limited control of building management in late 2020. Only the full control that comes with the long-term lease will properly position us to raise more substantial funds.
Secondly, the numbers speak for themselves. Coventry PEACE Inc. enters 2022 with $43,041 in the bank. Our conservative projections show net positive cash flow in each of the next nine years and an accumulated reserve of $1,023,357. The library has never specified the financial benchmarks it expects to see before we take full control of the building in a long-term lease.
As of November 30, the tenants had paid $133,022 in rent to CPC in 2021. Current tenants alone will pay nearly $145,000 in 2022. These funds cover building expenses, utilities and rent to the library.
2) “Levin detailed several ways the library system aided Coventry PEACE Inc. since its formation and different financial burdens the Heights Libraries have assumed for the campus… This includes helping save $800,000 on HVAC repairs.”
This is bizarre. Everyone agrees that the HVAC system needs refurbishment or replacement, and that the latter would be much more expensive. At the library’s urging, CPC has spent considerable time exploring the options with vendors, and were happy to work together to find the most cost-effective solution. The library has opted for refurbishment. We agree, but were never in a position to make a different decision anyway because we don’t own or control the building. So how this “saved” us money is not at all clear.
According to the terms of our current lease, we are responsible to pay for the first $10,000 of any project upfront, the Library pays the rest and we pay them back over time. As of today, $10,000 of our surplus is earmarked for this project, and we have budgeted over $9,000 a year over the next six years to settle the debt. Under the planned long-term lease, CPC would be responsible for all costs.
3) “Levin detailed several ways the library system aided Coventry PEACE Inc. since its formation and different financial burdens the Heights Libraries have assumed for the campus… paying for an engineering study” of the HVAC system.
This is false. We were told that our $10,000 (see above) would cover the cost of the engineering study that would kick-off the project.
4) “Levin detailed several ways the library system aided Coventry PEACE Inc. since its formation and different financial burdens the Heights Libraries have assumed for the campus…. leasing clause that would make the group responsible for the grounds around the building.”
This is another purely hypothetical savings. The negotiations have included discussions of responsibility for outdoor space. In an October meeting, we asked not to be responsible for any outdoor areas in the first nine years of the lease (because it increases our liability insurance costs), and the library readily agreed. This makes sense — the library’s new plans for the park and playground extend all the way up to the exterior of the building.
5) “Levin countered that the library system had to evict a daycare that wasn’t paying rent and noted that two major tenants — Ensemble Theatre and Family Connections” have left.
This is wildly misleading. The daycare center was brought in by then-owner CH-UH school district, and was evicted by the library long before the Coventry PEACE Inc. was involved in managing the building. Also before that time, Family Connections informed the library that its board had decided to relocate to Cleveland, where the organization could secure more funding and an immediate long-term lease.
Ensemble was the most recent to leave. When they left, library leadership expressed to us that they understood that Ensemble’s departure would affect our financials in the short term. But the vast majority of the lost rent will be covered in 2022 by current tenants’ planned expansions and new tenants moving in, if the conversion to a long-term lease goes forward.
6) “The Heights Libraries questioned whether the group’s business plan is actually sound, arguing they’re relying on short-term leases from small customers.”
This is false and, frankly, bizarre. We have shown that our finances will not rely on short-term rentals for solvency. Short-term rentals are just additional streams of revenue. And two of the short-term renters we are working with have already begun the paperwork to apply for non-profit status so that they can become permanent tenants. Another is already a non-profit that the library sent to us!
7) “The library now has the opportunity to revisit many other options for the building’s use. We have not set a date for the tenants to depart the building, we are not ‘kicking them out,’ but their experiment with managing the building may now be over.”
Let’s take this one line at a time.
What “other options for the building’s use” is Levin referring to? Excellent question. If she has some other plan, it’s a very well kept secret — and a strange one to keep from the party with which you’re ostensibly negotiating a long-term lease. More to the point, however, it’s a very unusual building with an open floor plan inspired by a short-lived, 1970s educational philosophy. The options for its reuse are limited, but it has proven perfect for the current tenants and those eager to join them.
Levin’s claim that the library is not “kicking [us] out” would be funny if the stakes weren’t so high. If the current lease does not convert to a long-term lease in January, as long planned, then all tenants will be month-to-month. What business, non-profit or for profit, can operate, much less grow, with that kind of instability? This suggests a desire to compel us to leave, and then to claim that it was our choice, to protect the library from negative public reactions.
And finally we come to what may be the most offensive part of Levin’s latest attack, her demeaning use of the word “experiment.” Collectively, CPC leaders have poured thousands of professional hours into building a unique, invaluable asset for the library, the cities it serves, and Greater Cleveland. We have met every requirement in the agreement to move forward with the long-term lease, which was always the plan from the moment the library took ownership of the property. To recast and dismiss this all now as an “experiment” is an affront to everyone who has worked for and supports the mission.
Why are we even in this position?
The most mind-boggling aspect of this mess is how completely unnecessary it is. The current agreement under which we’ve been negotiating for 15 months does not require a board vote for conversion to the long-term lease. In fact the conversion is supposed to be automatic. We first learned that the matter would go to a board vote in late November. Then in December, we were informed that a board subcommittee had recommended against the conversion. That’s why we’re forced to appeal for your support so close to the holidays. This is a manufactured crisis.
Why the secrecy?
We have been told that the board plans to discuss the lease tonight in executive session — in other words, behind closed doors. We’ve asked attorneys to explore whether this violates state open meetings law. As we understand it, the law allows for executive sessions to discuss the “purchase” or “sale” of property. The board clearly isn’t discussing the purchase of a property it already owns. And if it’s for sale, that would be news to us.
For some in Cleveland Heights, this may feel like déjà vu all over again. The CHUH Board of Education stumbled into a protracted PR and legal quagmire when it closed the Coventry School after allegedly violating state open meetings law.
Why is the library risking its own reputation?
In a recent meeting, library officials told us that they preferred to take a PR hit now that could come with failing to convert the lease, rather than risk CPC failing in a year or two and reflecting badly on the library when it begins campaigning for a levy in 2024. We find this strategy misguided and potentially counterproductive, to put it mildly.
Cleveland Heights and University Heights are home to some extremely vocal voters who oppose all levies on principle, and work backward from that position to rationalize it. By walking away from a solid plan that enhances the value of one of its own assets, the library may be handing those opponents a powerful argument against the levy it will seek to pass in 2024. This will be especially effective if the building is empty at that time, generating no revenue, or if the library has incurred the massive expense of tearing it down (which Levin has threatened before).
And then of course there are the thousands of people who have supported the idea of a non-profit arts and community service hub in the Coventry building since the school board closed it. We wonder how they’ll respond to the library board throwing away a viable plan for, what, something to be determined later? When the City of Cleveland Heights considered this, in 2017, residents rose up to support the tenants and to keep the project moving forward. Just as they did again in 2020, and are again this week.
The Coventry PEACE Campus plan aligns with the library’s mission and strategic plan. It reflects the community’s wishes dating back to 2008. It is well on its way to becoming a unique local and regional asset that spurs even more economic growth. It’s time to choose PEACE.
Find out more.
We are updating our Recent News page on a regular basis. To find out more about the most recent developments, to find further pertinent information, or to see how you can help, click on the button below.
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.