CLEVELAND — More than a dozen Shaker Square businesses owners held a last-minute rally in support of a $12 million plan that would allow the City of Cleveland to take control of the financially embattled business district but were left disappointed a vote on the plan was put on hold.
Shaker Square owners like Akin Affrica, founder of Zanzibar Soul Fusion Restaurant and Hallie Kogelschatz, CEO of Shark and Minnow, Strategy and Design told News 5 the renovation plan is desperately needed to stabilize the historic city asset.
"I was definitely disappointed the plan will not be voted on here in 2021," Affrica said. "They’re going to take possession of it, invest what’s needed, and sell it a fair market value, I think that’s a good plan.”
“With the roof failing, with the basement leaking, with the walls weeping, we are not in position to do business as we normally would do," Kogelschatz said. “We believe this ownership transition will allow us to stabilize the square.”
Still, Cleveland City Council held-off voting on the use of $12 million in tax dollars to take control of the district until after the first of the year at the request of Ward 4 Cleveland Councilwoman Anita Gardner, who told News 5 more public input and examination of the on the plan is needed before a vote.
Incoming Ward 4 Councilwoman Deborah Gray, who takes office on Jan. 3, agreed with delaying the vote, and issued a statement agreeing more public input on the plan is needed.
"The owner of Shaker Square, The Coral Company, did not pay their loan for the property, and a Receiver was appointed by the Court to manage Shaker Square. Currently, it is reported that 90% of the space is occupied." Gray said. "Some Shaker Square tenants are happy with how the receiver is managing repairs, while others are not. As of today, only a third of Shaker Square Tenants have signed onto a letter requesting Council pass the current deal as written today."
Shaker Square business owner Brandon Christowski, founder of Edwin's Leadership and Restaurant Institute, has been very vocal about the proposed city take-over of the square. Christowski was pleased a vote on the plan was delayed and believes other plans and investors should be considered.
“It's is a corporate bailout and an absurd use of public funds in the form of forgivable loans that would overpay for a property by nearly double," Christowski said. “Discuss options and negotiate a better deal with a bank, allow for a competitive bid, talk with private investment or even consider imminent domain to drive a fair market value price.
Cleveland City Council did approve a transfer ordinance to move the $12 million into another fund in anticipation of a vote on the plan in the first quarter of 2022.