They said no. Again.
In less than 30 hours, Heights Library curtly rejected Coventry PEACE Campus’s proposal to purchase the former Coventry School building and stated the building is not for sale.
Dismissive replies from Heights Library are not unusual, but this is concerning.
Who made the decision to reject the proposal with no consideration? Did their board members give input? If so, when and how? If not, why not? Do they see their role as representing the community and guiding major decisions, or just rubber-stamping decisions made by staff leadership? Why have most board members not toured our building? Why do they refuse to meet with us?
The CH-UH Board of Ed appoints members to the library board. Among their expectations is this: “They should be willing to ask questions, offer criticism and make suggestions. They should have the courage to plan creatively.” Traits not being applied to this project.
The Heights Library’s stated values include: “Supporting Community Aspirations: Cultivate and support programs that encourage safe and economically thriving neighborhoods. Foster a climate of innovation inside and outside our walls.”
When they took possession of the property, we believed it was in the spirit of these words. Maybe it was at the time. Now they have stopped being a partner & abandoned their commitment to granting a long-term lease ensuring the stability and independence we need to stay in Cleveland Hts. and keep growing. The Library has dismissed 5 years of work & planning by excluding CPC from its decision-making processes. We don’t even know what data/criteria they are using to make decisions that will have profound impacts on the tenants. The immediate rejection of our recent proposal — a win-win for all parties & the community — is further evidence that the library board is failing to live up to its own values.
To read about previous developments in this matter, please see the updates below.
04/18/22 - CPC Offers to Buy Building
Coventry PEACE offers to buy former Coventry Elementary School.
Proposal is a win-win for all involved.
Community members can voice their support for this proposal by attending the Heights Library board meeting on Monday, April 18 at 6:30 pm in Meeting Room B and the Nelson Brody Room at the Main Library, 2345 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights, or by submitting a letter to the board members via the Coventry PEACE Campus website by clicking on the at the bottom of this update.
Coventry PEACE, Inc.’s mission includes providing a sustainable, supportive and collaborative facility for the arts and community service nonprofit businesses located in the former Coventry School building. In an effort to ensure the continued progress of establishing a permanent nonprofit hub, Coventry PEACE has notified the Heights Library Board members of our desire to purchase the building.
As you are aware, the Library has taken steps to dissolve the partnership with Coventry PEACE, Inc. (doing business as Coventry PEACE Campus, or CPC), putting the entire project in jeopardy. CPC’s independence from the library is the most viable path forward that ensures the success of this community-supported project.
In 2020, CPC and Heights Library began negotiating the terms of a long-term lease agreement that would give CPC and the tenants the stability we need to keep growing. In December 2021, with no alternative plan in place, the Library Board voted against converting to the long-term lease, upsetting community supporters and disrupting the planning of tenant programming. The tenants have been on month-to-month leases since January, and the Library Board has refused to meet with CPC as partners to discuss the future of the project. Most Library Board members have not spoken with the tenants or visited the building, but are making decisions that undermine the plan CPC spent five years developing by bringing in outside companies to perform tasks that CPC provides for free.
The Library has moved forward with a repetitive “facilities study” ($14,575) and is in the final stages of approving a contract with an outside facilities management company at a base cost of $2,750 per month. Work performed by that company (which submitted the highest of all bids received) would then be billed hourly.
CPC has provided most of the same services at no cost to the library for the last four years. In fact CPC and library staff discussed outside management in 2018, and again in 2020, and the library staff agreed both times that it was unnecessary. No clear reason has been given for the abrupt change in 2021.
Since the Library Board voted against the long-term lease, the library has imposed a 25% rent hike for CPC and plans to pass the new costs noted above onto the tenants via significant rent increases. The consequences of these decisions have made it much more difficult to convert prospective organizations into permanent tenants, and could result in several current tenants leaving the building or shuttering altogether, placing the entire project in jeopardy.
There is still time to mitigate the damage caused by the Library Board’s misguided decisions. CPC purchasing the building from the library would solve all parties’ problems.
CPC’s purchase of the building is a win-win for all involved. The Library does not have to worry at levy time how the public will perceive their continued ownership of the building, Coventry PEACE will have the flexibility to balance the needs of the tenants and the operations of the building, and residents will continue to be able to access the programming of the nonprofits they are attached to.
While the Coventry PEACE Campus project was formalized five years ago, many of the tenants have been working towards the same goal for much longer, and the residents and community made it clear more than 10 years ago that this was how they wanted to see the former school building used.
With the library abandoning its commitment to that vision, CPC needs independence to keep growing. To cite just one example: CPC has spoken with the Cleveland Foundation about support through its Collateral Funding program. The Cleveland Foundation wants the building’s owner involved too, but the library has refused to take a meeting.
CPC’s independence was always part of the plan. In 2018, Heights Library Executive Director Nancy Levin told Patch: “Our goal is for the tenants to be independent. We don't want to be landlords – we will be acting as a kind of incubator, supporting the tenants until they can take over ownership and management of the property themselves.”
While the Library Board declined the opportunity to do just this at the beginning of the year, CPC’s proposal to purchase the building is a solution from which everyone will benefit, and one that can bring our organizations together again as partners serving the entire community. It allows for the library to devote its time and financial resources on its priorities and CPC to maintain and improve the building as an arts and community center with rents affordable to members of that sector. This offer is a way for all of us to “Keep the PEACE.”
Community members can voice their support for this proposal by attending the Heights Library board meeting on Monday, April 18 at 6:30 pm in Meeting Room B and the Nelson Brody Room at the Main Library, 2345 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights, or by submitting a letter to the board members via the Coventry PEACE Campus website by clicking on the button below.
04/12/22 - Cleveland Foundation Update
CPC Project Update 04/12/22
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.
02/21/22 - CPC UPDATE
CPC Project Update 02/21/22
The Library has a regularly scheduled board meeting tonight and while we have not seen a published agenda, at their last meeting they stated they will be voting on approving Allegro Company to conduct a building feasibility study. We have asked to be provided the details of this agreement - the cost, scope, etc., but are still waiting to receive them. If we do not receive them soon, we hopefully learn more at their board meeting tonight. This meeting is open to the public, and brief public comments are allowed.
We have obvious concerns about the repition of a feasibilty study considering CPC hired IFF to conduct a study in 2018 which we were able to do through grants and at no cost to tax payers. We are not sure of the ways in which this study will differ from the one already completed, or why a new study is better than asking IFF to do a follow up study. Nor do we know how long this will take. If it is as comprehensive as the one we conducted, it could take several months, or more. This, of course concerns us in regard to how our organizations can continue to operate and plan for future programming without a lease.
Until the Library agrees to meet with CPC in a way that allows for a productive conversation that includes a back-and-forth discussion, we will continue to attend these public meetings. We heartily welcome you to join us and encourage you to voice your questions and concerns.
Monday, Feb. 21, 2022
Lee Road Branch
2345 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., OH 44118
02/09/22 - CPC Project Update
The Library has scheduled a public meeting for tomorrow regarding PEACE Campus matters. This was a surprise to all of us — we were only notified on Tuesday, after they had posted the meeting to the public. This format is not at all what has been discussed between our attorneys, a board-to-board work session as the Library originally requested. This public meeting will consist of a presentation from the Library staff, followed by a period of public comment to which the Library board will listen but not respond.
If you wish to attend to support CPC, or contact a Library board member, we ask you to urge them to sit down with us for a work-session meeting. We need two-way communication between our boards. Only one of the seven Library board members has ever spoken to us directly, and we believe this distance contributed to the board’s misguided decision in December.
We will keep you posted on any further developments. Please see the accompanying image for the details of the meeting as provided to us by the Library.
Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022
Meeting Room B & Brody Nelson Room
Lee Road Branch
2345 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., OH 44118
01/06/22 - CPC STATEMENT
LATEST UPDATE AS OF 6:00 AM THURSDAY, JAN. 6
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
- Nancy Levin’s comments to the press have contributed to misunderstandings about CPC’s lease
- 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
- We plan to hold a public meeting to talk about all of this
- We are disappointed, but as far as we’re concerned, this is not over
12/30/21 - WE ARE NOT CLOSING
LATEST UPDATE AS OF 3:15 PM THURSDAY, DEC. 30
Last week Heights Library (building owner) voted to not convert our current agreement to the first term of a long-term lease, which means we will enter into a month-to-month hold-over clause as of January 1, 2022. Further meetings and negotiations with Heights Libary will be needed to come to a new agreement. We are updating our website on a regular basis with ongoing developments. Be sure to join our email list so we can let you know how you can help and follow us on social media.
#choosePEACE #coventrypeacecampus #webuiltthis #clevelandheights #coventryvillage
12/28/21 - COPY OF LIBRARY MOTION
LATEST UPDATE AS OF 5:00 PM TUESDAY, DEC. 28
Just before the Christmas holiday, the Library provided us with a written copy of the motion they voted on at their Dec. 22 Special Meeting. You can read, or download it here.
12/23/21 - CLARIFICATION: NO AGREEMENT MADE
LATEST UPDATE AS OF 5:00 PM THURSDAY, DEC. 23
It has been brought to our attention that Nancy Levin is responding to your wonderful letters of support. To clarify, there has been no agreement made with the library at this time. We feel her statements gloss over the years of hard work and professional planning that have gone into this project. We will keep you informed. Please enjoy the upcoming holidays and we look forward to better days ahead. Thank You Coventry PEACE.
12/22/21 - THEY VOTED NO - DETAILS & AUDIO
LATEST UPDATE AS OF 9:15 PM WEDNESDAY, DEC. 22
LISTEN TO AUDIO FROM THE MEETING BELOW
The Library voted to terminate the lease with CPC. Obviously, we are very concerned with this decision and are lacking any clear details on what the path forward may be. We are already working on setting up meetings with Library representatives and key advisors. But given that we are in the thick of the Holiday season it may take some time before we have any substantial details. We will share any further details with you as they develop. We are grateful to the one lone Library board member who stood with us. He showed true leadership and courage tonight, and we thank him. And of course, our deepest gratitude goes out to all of you - we cannot thank you enough for all your letters of support. We wish we had better news for you. We will continue to hold on to hope that there may be some alternative path forward so that each of our organizations can stay in the home that we built together.
AUDIO FROM LIBRARY BOARD MEETING:
12/17/21 & 12/20/21 - CPC FACES UNCERTAIN FUTURE
Coventry PEACE Campus project suddenly faces uncertain future, but you can help
As we close out a challenging, exciting year, we’d like to tell you about all the encouraging developments at Coventry PEACE Campus, like the recent Lantern Festival and events planned for next year, new tenants who have joined us in 2021, and current tenants’ planned expansions. We’d like to focus on those things, but we can’t right now. The entire project is in jeopardy, and we need your help.
Last week, a Heights Library board subcommittee voted 2-1 against signing a long-term lease with Coventry PEACE Inc., the nonprofit that would manage the leases of the various tenants and the building. We’ve been negotiating with Library leadership for this lease for more than a year, and while there have been disagreements, as in any negotiation, there has never been a hint that the Library ultimately might back out.
The conversion to a long-term lease is not a formality. It will provide the stability that Coventry PEACE, Inc. and the tenants need to raise the funds necessary to achieve what we’ve been working toward since 2017. Funders want to see independence and self-sufficiency. We have submitted to the Library detailed proposals for increasing rent revenues and making building improvements, and even our most conservative projections show growth. Three tenants are planning significant expansions (with increased rents) in the new year. The long-term lease will be a net positive for the Library, the rest of the PEACE Campus, and the entire community, for many years to come — if the Library board follows through.
This was always the plan. In 2018, Heights Library Executive Director Nancy Levin told Cleveland Heights Patch: “Our goal is for the tenants to be independent. We don’t want to be landlords — we will be acting as a kind of incubator, supporting the tenants until they can take over ownership and management of the property themselves.”
That time is now. If the Library’s position changes, after all this time and effort, the tenants will once again have to consider whether they have a viable future in the building. An empty building is the worst possible outcome, and that’s what the Library is risking with its sudden reversal.
On December 20, the entire Heights Library board will vote on the long-term lease. If you know board members, please reach out to them to express your support for the Coventry PEACE Campus vision. You can also attend the meeting, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Main Library on Lee Road.
UPDATE: The Library board took public comments at their meeting on the 20th, but did not vote. THEY WILL NOW VOTE ON DECEMBER 22. According to their website they have scheduled a Special Meeting that "will immediately move to executive session for the purpose of discussing the purchase or sale of property. The board will then convene in public session to discuss the purchase or sale of property and the recognition of a board member." The Executive Session is private and not open to the public. We are waiting for confirmation as to whether or not attendees will be allowed inside this time so they can observe the public portion of the meeting. If it is like Monday's meeting, nobody will be allowed inside and they will not be offering a lovestream option, either. THIS IS OF GREAT CONCERN TO US.
Due to the pandemic, we really don't want anyone to take any unnecessary risks, but we need as many people to at least show up early outside so that the Library board members see you as you arrive and are fully aware of how many people are following these developments. We will look into how we may be able to livestream whatever we can - even if we're outside in the cold.
There are several ways in which you can help our project and the nonprofit businesses located at the Coventry PEACE Building right now. As new developments emerge, we will notify you as to other ways in which you may be able to help, as well.
>> Sign the petiition.
Let the leadership of the Library know where you stand on this issue. Join the hundreds of other supporters who are letting their voice be heard.
>> Attend Library Board & Committee meetings.
NOTE: THE NEXT LIBRARY BOARD MEETING IS MONDAY, MAY 16TH AT 6:30 PM AT THE LEE RD. BRANCH & WE NEED YOU THERE - WE WILL BE SENDING DETAILS VIA EMAIL, SO BE SURE YOU ARE ON OUR MAILING LIST.
Library Board & Committee meetings are open to the public. Library Board meetings allow for public comments and questions at the beginning of each meeting. While Committee meetings are open to the public for viewing, they only allow public comment via email.
>> Send a letter to the Library Board & local representatives.
Let the Library Board and our other local leaders know you support our efforts, or share with them any concerns or questions you may have. Use our easy form which will automatically mail to each Library Board member, Cleveland Heights City Council & Mayor, University Heights City Council & Mayor, and the CH-UH School Board.
>> Add your name to our list of supporters on our website.
By sharing with our community the names of those who want to see this project carried forward, you can inspire others to join us, too.
>> Attend our upcoming events & workshops.
While the pnademic kept our building closed to the public for a lengthy period of time, we are open again. CPC and the nonprofit businesses located here have an array of special events, classes and workshops lined up for this year. Come see us in action!
>> Send a letter to our city representatives.
Did you know that the CHUH School Board appoints the members of the Library Board? Did you know the University Heights mayor has attended many of our events, yet the Cleveland Heights mayor has not attended any? Did you know there is a quarterly meeting between the Library Board, the CHUH School Board and the City Councils of Cleveland Heights and University Heights? Let these elected representatives know what your thoughts are regarding the state of the Coventry PEACE Campus project.
>> Join our email list.
Stay up-to-date on our upcoming events and developments regarding the CPC project.
>> Send us your questions.
Do you have questions regarding the Coventry PEACE Campus project? Send us any question you have and we'll do our best to answer it.
>> Make a donation.
Your generosity is greatly appreciated.
Stay up-to-date on the latest Coventry PEACE Campus news and events – sign up to receive emails or follow us on social media.
Emails & Newsletters
Occassionally we send out updates, event information and newsletters via email. Click on the link below to sign up to receive information via email.
Coventry PEACE Campus can be found on several social media platforms. Click on the button below to find us online and be sure to like/follow us!
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.