CLEVELAND — Brandon Chrostowski's Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute have become a bigger and bigger anchor at Cleveland's Shaker Square, but he doesn't believe using $12 million in city money is the best way to stabilize the financially ailing city asset.
Shaker Square Ward 4 Cleveland Councilwoman Anita Gardner is also unsure about the proposal to use city tax dollars to buy-up control of the historic east side business district. Last week, Gardner called for a council vote on the proposal be delayed until more public input and examination of the proposal could be completed.
Gardner told News 5 she wasn't even told about the proposal when it was discussed last week without her input, so she wrote a letter to council calling for the plan to be put on hold.
She has arranged a meeting for public input on the plan and the future of historic Shaker Square to take place on Friday, Dec. 3, starting at 10 a.m. at the York-Rite Masonic Hall at 13512 Kinsman Road.
Chrostowski told News 5 there are other ways to find the funds to financially stabilize Shaker Square without putting city tax dollars at risk.
"So essentially we’re giving away 6 to 12 million dollars to a bank that did a bad deal, and here it is bailing them out again," Chrostowski said. “That money can be used elsewhere. Six million dollars, you know how many meals that is, that's 10,000 lunches for kids for a year, that’s 1,200 families we could provide groceries for.”
“The square is not in imminent risk, it takes up to eight or nine months for a sheriff’s sale to happen, and even at that point if it sold, the mortgage holder could buy it back with the right of redemption within 30-days. The square is not in squalor, there’s no rush to get this done, the only rush is someone wants control of this for some reason, and I think it’s the dollars sign.”
“Maybe there’s another option, maybe there is a proposal that’s put out, a competitive bid where a private company says I’ll use 6-million of the city money, but I’ll use 6-million of my own.”
But Ward 6 Cleveland Councilman Blaine Griffin believes time is of the essence, that the financially embattled square could face a sheriff's sale in the next 30-days, leaving it vulnerable to an unknown buyer. Griffin and other council members are in support of a vote on the proposal during council's last meeting on Dec. 6.
Griffin said the $12 million would come in the form of two $6 million loans, one that would be forgivable, the other to be paid back in five years.
“A lot of us believe Shaker Square is too big to fail, whether you think we’re overpaying, or whether you think that we should pay," Griffin said.
“Everybody believes that this asset needs to be saved and stabilized. The bondholders have possibly made a play to possibly put it up for sheriff's sale within the next 30 days or so, so time is of the essence. Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and Burten, Bell, Carr will actually be the owner and be taking the risk, but Cleveland will have a seat at the table."
"A lot of roof repairs need to be made a lot of foundation work needs to be done, a lot of flooding in the basements are taking place.”
Meanwhile, Chrostowski believes it is still not clear there will be enough votes to pass the $12 million deal on Dec. 6 and said the last-minute public meeting is just a band-aid on a proposal that needs more examination.
“They went behind the councilwoman’s back, they never informed councilwoman Anita Gardner that this is happening, so what’s really going on here," Chrostowski said. ”To have a public comment session with three days' notice, this is outrageous and what is this truly coming down to?”