Plain Dealer Expands on Jeff Buster's REALNEO Coverage of Problems with University Square Parking Structure

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Fri, 05/02/2008 - 17:35.

Jeff Buster certainly demonstrates "Why Citizen Journalism" regularly, with his impactful and important reporting and photojournalism on many matters of hyper-local, regional and global importance, on REALNEO, followed by the world. Today, the Cleveland Plain Dealer followed Jeff's lead investigation of a disgraceful, failed development in University Heights, "UNIVERSITY SQUARE MALL PARKING STRUCTURE - CLOSE IT NOW?" The PD's Patrick O'Donnell writes "University Square battles empty storefronts, parking garage problems", offering a very different set of perspectives on all matters related to this failure, while completely validating all construction-related observations first revealed by Jeff, a lifelong construction professional.

That REALNEO allows an expert in construction to raise awareness and force solutions to a significant structural problem in an expensive public structure, funded with public assistance, certainly proves why citizen journalism matters.

I am not surprised to see such failure in a modern suburban retail structure, as these developments are poorly designed and as cheap in every respect as possible... from Crocker Park to Severance Center. That leaders of suburbs like University Heights are so foolish as to allow low quality developers to blight their nice, stable, bedroom communities with inappropriate projects like this is pathetic. It seems to me incompetent small town politicians are creating bloated, ineffective feifdoms that are ruining their cities, at great tax burden to all citizens.

Shame on all parties involved with University Square... now the residents are stuck with a Randall Park Mall at the tight, congested drive-by intersection of Warrensville and Cedar. Don't they realize people with a choice avoid this intersection like the plague... there were lots of good, local authentic destinations around there before the current generation of ownership and "leadership" ruined everything - Geracie's, Corky and Lenny's, Bialy's, Davis Bakery, Peking Gourmet... many great ethnic restaurants and shops - and now this area is such a mess I don't even seek any of the worthy destinations out, any more.

So when is that mayor up for reelection?

So who decides how port authority money is invested?

Seems there are more questions still unanswered about this situation than answered, even if the PD has twice declared no-fault and mission accomplished for their friends. Jeff, keep us all posted!


Citizen reporting

Brooklyn Centre's own dynamic duo are also out there covering the stories, we don't always see in the mainstream media.  See Fear trumps Trust at Save our Land.

By the way, this is scary, from the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission:

02 May 2008

CDC changes conclusions of Great Lakes study The Centers for Disease Control released a revised draft of its controversial study on heath risks in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern. The new draft contradicts earlier versions by omitting county-level data and saying that "current health and environmental data collection cannot define the threat to human health from critical pollutants in the Great Lakes region."

So, my question would be: who and whose information do you TRUST anymore?? 

Not one mention of the Port Authority from the PD

The day I saw the article in, I noticed there wasn't one mention of the Port Authority from the PD.

Port Authority involvement

It isn't clear to me if there is Port Authority involvement now or planned - Jeff or Susan, any insight on that?

Disrupt IT


Following is  text copied from the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority Web site (at the bottom of the page):

University Heights Public Parking Garage
The Port Authority provided financing assistance for the purchase of land and construction of a multi-level, 2,600-space public parking garage which supports a retail complex. The garage is owned by the Port Authority. Total project cost: $129 million


“Without the help of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, the University Square project would not have been possible. Their staff was extremely helpful throughout the entire process, and we are very grateful for their assistance in this project.”

- Beryl Rothschild, Mayor of University Heights


I copied the text here to realneo because I wouldn't be surprised if the Port pulls this text down pretty soon. 

In my earlier post here in a comment made on March 15, 2008 I had a link to a pdf at  Municap are TIF experts - ie creative finance for developers. 

The pdf link was:

which has since been pulled down - the pdf gave figures for occupancy and income from the garage and mall.  The PDF was intended as an annual report to bondholders.   Wonder why it has been pulled down?  I should have copied it.  I may still have it in my downloads on another computer.  Does google have a cache for pdfs?  This pdf document would have been delivered to the Port Authority and also probably to University Heights.  It could be obtained with a freedom of info request as a last resort.    Atty Dennis Wilcox will also have a copy of the pdf report. 

I will bet the accounting in the Municap pdf was fluff, and the link has been jerked so that the boggus accounting isn't out there during the lawsuits which are sure to be swirling around about the garage and the mall soon.  The buyers of the Municap bonds will also want to know why their investment isn't doing too well. 

Welcome to Cleveland !

Ciuni/DDR/Port - what a mess

From the PD article, titled, "University Square battles empty storefronts, parking garage problems", PD, Patrick O'Donnell, May 2, 2008 (linked in post above)

"Though the city is not reviewing the repair plans in detail - leaving that to an Inland engineer licensed in Ohio as is standard - Ciuni said they look like a good way to resolve the trouble.

"Honestly, I don't know how it happened," Ciuni said. "Either it was the manufacture or the design. When this is done, we won't have to worry about it.""

Boy this guy sounds like the city engineer I want managing the property where I drive my car up onto to the 5th floor along questionably built ramps and onto cracked cement.

If you read a bit farther down in the comments on Jeff's post, we did the research and found that Inland was purchased by Developers Diversified Realty (DDR). Here's what they have to say about their property acquisition:

"Developers Diversified currently has coast-to-coast development commitments exceeding $4 billion, but our quest for prime properties is a central, ongoing dimension of our operations. If you believe you might hold real estate that would fit into the Developers Diversified portfolio of more than 740 retail operating and development properties and our growing development pipeline, please contact us."

Development pipeline? Do you mean homogenization and pasteurization pipeline?

"One of the keys to Developers Diversified Realty's road to prominence in its industry is the company's aggressive development program and its ability to maximize the potential of its shopping centers through redevelopment, renovation and expansion. Many considerations come into play when Developers Diversified researches an opportunity to develop a shopping center - rural or urban - but the pivotal factor is whether the property can accommodate a shopping center that matches the community's needs."

Uh did any of you guys think about the fact that in order for retail to thrive - the people have to have jobs? I mean let's bring it right down to your wallet - if you didn't get paid, you don't have money to spend no matter how cheap and plentiful those made in China goods are.

But hey, we build 'em and then we sell 'em. Do we care? Let's see... do they have any failed shopping centers for sale. Oh yeah! Here you go; they got portfolios, assets AND land for sale! And look at how awesome these buildings are - now that's architecture, baby!

You're right, Norm - these guys stand for the homogenization of our culture - they paved paradise to put up a parking lot - a lotta parking lots. Think they pay for the stormwater runoff on these babies? Need to know if there is one near you? Use this handy interactive map. Interestingly the DDR website does not mention their big plans for Flats Eastbank, but I liked the headline on this article by Tom Breckenridge of the PD from October 2007,  A new Flats means big money - some of it is yours.

While entire neighborhoods are being razed, in Cleveland, you gotta wonder - how many big box retail properties do we need? How many does America need with the current economic crisis and our consumer goods being made in countries that are violating basic human rights, polluting the planet, putting lead toys in the mouths of babes worldwide?

But like DDT - when we discovered it wasn't a good thing to spray on our food, we just off shored it, and now we eat that fruit sprayed that is with DDT in third world countries with nary a thought - because we can. We can have kiwi fruit in December, strawberries in January, and corn year round in everything. So when DDR runs out of land to develop in the US, will they begin to develop - bring these prominent stores (Walgreen’s, Walmart, Home Depot, etc.) to new countries? Oh yes; they already have expanded their market to Brazil, Russia and Canada.

At University Square though, it seems that for today, they got the Cleveland Cuyahoga County Port Authority to buy this crumbling concrete structure, the one Ciuni doesn't want to worry about to buy it for them. And you're  right, dweller1, the PD shied away from informing the public about the curious Port connection mentioning that the Port provided financing, while our research showed that the Port owns the structure making it tax-exempt.  What are we to understand here?

I would also add that folks who read Jeff's article may have a better understanding of the structural issues. O'Donnell's descriptions are greek to me. "Inland engineers and Ciuni said the cracks are occurring where thinner parts of the pieces meet thicker parts - the ridges that resemble the leg of the letter "T" and give the pieces their name. Inland's engineers say the tees do not have proper steel reinforcing inside so extra weight and pressure are causing the cracks that are made worse because the steel is not deep enough in the concrete." Really??? Jeff's investigation seems more complete. But then, I don't suppose O'Donnell has the construction background to understand whether or not Ciuni and Inland are giving him shuck and jive or the real story. Maybe they don't either.  Doesn't anyone think it curious how the original engineer has closed up shop and mysteriously moved on from Hybrid Parking Systems? They have built several of these parking structures, so why is this one failing? Is it trucks? Does the guy whose wife call and asks him to get something from Target on the way home think about the fact that he is in the pickup carrying a heavy load when he drives up to the 5th floor to run in for an item? I'll have to look for the signage that says no trucks allowed next time I am in the vicinity.

And there's this curious new development: " Rothschild still has high hopes for the area as a "lifestyle community" with trolleys carrying shoppers between University Square and Cedar Center." What?!? In case you are not familiar with this intersection, Cedar Center is ACROSS THE STREET from University Square. Whatever happened to walking? Who would pay for said trolley's - University Heights, Cleveland Heights or South Euclid? All three municiplaities share this corner.

There is surely more to delve into here, but I'll let someone else ask the next several questions.