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Shaker Square rescue plan to receive City Council review as possible sheriff's sale looms

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Posted at 6:03 PM, Nov 30, 2021

CLEVELAND — A unique proposal to indirectly use American Rescue Plan Act funding to shore up the historic but financially-teetering Shaker Square will undergo additional scrutiny by the City Council next week just as the city’s legislative body goes into recess for the remainder of the year. Under the proposal, the city would use $12 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to prevent the venerated shopping and community center from entering a sheriff’s sale.

The legislation authorizing the creative accounting proposal was initially going to be discussed during a joint meeting of the Finance Committee and Development, Planning and Sustainability Committee on Monday afternoon but was tabled at the last minute. Instead, the legislation will be discussed prior to the Council’s last meeting of the legislative session.

Under the proposal, the $12 million would be derived from the $108 million in ARPA funding, which was entered into the city’s general fund to offset pandemic-related revenue losses. In total, the city is to receive more than $500 million through the American Rescue Plan Act.

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Built in 1929, Shaker Square remains a vital commercial district to residents living in the nearby Buckeye-Shaker and Woodland neighborhoods. However, the shopping center, which frequently hosts farmers markets and other community gatherings, has fallen further into financial delinquency.

City officials have also said much of the maintenance of the plaza has been deferred. Despite its precarious position, the square is as beloved as ever.

“Yes, it’s much more [than a shopping center],” said Bryan Burgess. “It’s not just shopping. It’s a place where people know everyone and people can communicate. [Losing it] would kind of devastate the area and make it hard for people like myself that don’t have a car and have to rely on a bus to go shopping.”

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According to the proposal, the city’s contribution of $12 million divided across two separate loans would prevent the property from being sold at a looming sheriff’s sale. Additionally, the city would ensure its ability to examine offers from potential buyers in order to protect the neighborhood’s interests. If the property were to go to a sheriff’s sale, the city would not have any control over what interested parties bid on the property — or what they plan on doing with it.

Tiffany Hansard has been shopping at Shaker Square for more than three decades. Although she would love to see the shopping district renovated and modernized, her greatest fear is losing it all together.

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“It’s basically home,” Hansard said. “It’s where we come for comfort and to be around people. It’s very important. It’s a part of the neighborhood. It’s what stands out as far as the community is concerned. It makes it look like a better place.”