Facing Maturity and New Territories
Changes in City Hall Leadership and the Building expands - Twice
In the 1980's Beachwood would see growth in all areas of development, however, the community would also see the loss of two of the people who contributed greatly to its growth. In 1981 George Zeiger retired after serving as mayor since 1962. Zeiger moved to Beachwood in 1951 with his young bride Anita and resided at 23901 Edgehill. They raised two children, Terry and Allen, who was known by everyone in the community as "Smokey". In 1960 Zeiger was asked to serve as Clerk replacing Vincent Hlavin, who had been elected mayor.
Mayor George Zeiger at his clean and functional desk.
Zeiger was a take charge man who was respected by everyone. Zeiger projected a sense of authority without having to raise his voice. According to his son, Zeiger had a vision of what the citizens of Beachwood wanted for their community. He was as dedicated to the city and its citizens as anyone could be. During a blizzard in the early 1960's he knew he should be at City Hall. He was unable to get his car out of his driveway so he walked to work. One must remember that in the 1960's the city did not have the staff that it has today so everyone pitched in. On his way up to the City Hall Zeiger found his neighbor and friend, Arthur Marcus, trudging through the snow heading in the same direction. Zeiger's dedication to the community continued until he retired in 1981. Ultimately, George, Anita and both children moved to California. George died two years later in 1983 and Anita passed away soon after.
In 1985 the city would lose another of its "most valuable players". There are very few pictures of Eugene Pesti at ribbon cuttings or at governmental events because he spent most of his time at his desk. Known as "Gene" to all his friends, Pesti started to work for the city as its Finance Director in 1964. Two years later he was given the added job of Clerk of Council. Until that time the job of Clerk had been a part-time job held by a resident of Beachwood. Many former mayors in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's had first served as Clerks of Council. Pesti was without a doubt a workaholic and took great pride in caring for the community that he served and the dollars that came through it. The Council and the Mayor never needed to worry about the financial condition or the management of City Hall while "Gene" was there. Beachwood's good fortune to have a top-notch person like Gene ended tragically in 1985. Gene suffered a heart attack at his desk and died. With the departure of Zeiger and Pesti, the City of Beachwood lost a bit of its hometown feeling.
That hometown feeling at City Hall was not only changed by the loss of these two men but also because the city continued to grow at a rapid pace. A new garage for the service department was constructed. In 1986, the massive building that now flanks the north side of the City Hall complex allows space for all of the service department vehicles. On the southeast side of the City Hall a new community center was added. This area now houses the Law Department, the Recreation Department and provides multipurpose rooms that are used extensively for a variety of senior programs sponsored by the Recreation Department. A third component of this addition was a state-of-the-art firing range for our Police Department.
Taken in 1987. Beachwood Patrolman Bill Balcom and Deputy Chief Don Cunningham take aim at realistic targets in the state-of-the-art firing range. Cunnigham joined the department in 1957 when Beachwood had seven full-time officers. After retiring from the department, Cunningham joined the Building Department as a housing inspector.
In 1992 the City Hall would again expand so that the Police Department could upgrade its jail. Because the laws concerning jail cells had changed over the years, Beachwood's needed to meet the new standards. At the same time a total refurbishing was done to the entire City Hall.
By 1981 Beachwood's development of Chagrin Blvd. and Commerce Park was just about done. Except for a few parcels on Chagrin Blvd., the larger chunks of land zoned for commercial and residential development had already been utilized and were contributing valuable tax revenue. Beachwood's total property value was nearing $140 million. The five remaining parcels were: the Science Park area, the land between Pavilion Mall and Fire Station Dr., the land east of Fire Station Dr., the land where
Embassy Suites now stands, and the land behind Beachwood Place Mall. As usual, proposing new plans for these parcels ignited battles between the residents, the developers and City Council.
In 1976, the seven owners of this property got together and started to plan its use. This land had been rezoned in 1962 from residential to commercial so that Albert Lavin could build a mega-shopping center. Therefore, in order to build homes on the land it needed to be rezoned again. With the help of well-known architectural firm Keeva Kekst and Associates and the SWA consulting group a master plan was created.
George Zeiger, Harvey Friedman and Armand Arnson, who was the chairman of the Beachwood Planning Commission, met with the developers in 1976. There were several very broad but stern messages that they sent to the landowners. Zeiger did not want the project to inflict pain on the budget of the city nor did he want it to be a tax burden. Zeiger was very cautious relative to the developers' intentions for the land. Several years earlier the landowners had presented a plan to build apartment buildings, a mall like Richmond Mall, and a strip center with a Gold Circle Discount store. Zeiger was so upset with the Gold Circle portion of the project that he threatened to rezone all of the land to residential, single family homes. Friedman, then President of Council, wanted a complete plan that had one organization leading and guiding the project. Arnson wanted to see many of the designs of the buildings incorporated into the deed restrictions and put into effect at the time the property was subdivided. Essentially he was looking for a uniform appearance within the village. While zoning could have stipulated it, a deed restriction made it as close to concrete as possible.
When the plan was presented to council in 1978 many of the residents did not like it because it only had cluster type homes. One part of the plan was a strip of convenience stores that included a twenty-five thousand square foot Pick-N-Pay Supermarket. This strip was to be parallel with what is now George Zeiger Drive. Ultimately the land was rezoned without the shopping strip. The city made a trade-off with the developer that more high rise buildings would be allowed. This did not settle the issue with the residents because they wanted single family homes which they felt would provide more children for the school system. They also felt that single family homes were in high demand because it was not easy to find a home in Beachwood that was for sale. Council President Harvey Friedman knew why the homes were not selling. No one wanted to leave Beachwood. While there were many empty nesters, life in Beachwood was too good to leave. Therefore, Friedman felt that the developers (Forest City) plan for cluster type homes with a park setting was the right solution. The empty nesters could sell their Beachwood homes and move into The Village. The concept was nicknamed "Step Up". While Friedman tried explaining how this progression of life would stimulate the sale of older homes to new families, the opposition just did not get it. There was an attempt to have a referendum vote to repeal the rezoning change. The process employed to initiate the referendum was determined to be void and the vote never took place.
In 1979 the country went into a financial recession and Forest City, along with its partners, came close to throwing in the towel on the "Village", and were ready to pave simple streets for 220 single family homes. The thought was to simply do what they had done before, develop the streets, sell the land to builders and say goodbye to this project. However, in 1983 the economy had improved and the time was right to start the project as originally planned. Construction was thus started and by 1985 the first resident, Dr. Erwin Raffel, moved in.
Prior to Forest City's departure from this development there was a public punch list that Harvey Friedman required Forest City to complete. This was known as "Promises and Fulfillments" and was printed on a parchment like paper with a gold seal giving the document an official look.
This large tract of land in the Village took many years to complete and in 1996 the last of the townhouses were being constructed just behind a very special place for this author. That place was the home at 2521 Richmond Rd. where the Kriwinsky Family had once lived. It was in this home that I first started to learn about Beachwood. In the summer of 1973 I worked at Musicarnival, a theater in the round under a tent in Warrensville Heights, selling hot dogs and lemonade. It was there that I met Jan Kriwinsky. Working at Musicarnival was a second summer job for both of us. I worked at McDowell Wellman's print shop during the day and Jan worked for Max, Gene and Mike Zimet during the day doing landscaping work. Max was known for being one of the finest landscapers in the area. Jan was responsible for installing the sprinkler systems and often would finish them up on the evenings that we did not work at Musicarnival. Many of Jan's customers were in Beachwood and Pepper Pike and hanging around with Jan I got to know Beachwood. For the next 6 years I became a part of the Kriwinsky household. Jan's older brother Mark was off at college and at the time. Jan's younger brother Paul, his sister Kathy and I became close friends. I can remember running around in the woods that now make up the "Village" and shooting off firecrackers with Paul. I also remember that Mrs. Kriwinky would make Mr. Kriwinsky what I would describe as the greatest bowl of french onion soup in the world.
In 1978, with all the children off to college the Kriwinskys moved to Winchester, Virginia to be closer to a business that they owned. I remember the day that they moved. I stood in their driveway for about an hour pondering the next phase of each of our lives. Several years later Mrs. Kriwinsky moved back to Beachwood. Like so many others who had left the area, when the decision was made to relocate back to northern Ohio, Beachwood was the only logical choice. The house had been bought by Forest City Development and sat empty for many years until 1995 when the current owners bought it and renovated it. Today Mark is my dentist, Jan is a pediatrician, Kathy is a paramedic and fire fighter in Florida, and Paul is a scientist.
In 1985, although one would not know it from the way the land looks, a church and home once stood on the southeast corner of South Woodland and Richmond Rds. Little is known about the church except that it is was a Catholic Church and was
mentioned in several early documents relative to Warrensville Township. Next to the church was the home of Fanny Wilcox Cowle and Richard Cowle. Richard and Fanny had two children, Mary and William. William was a bachelor who built a farmhouse at 2871 Richmond Rd. on 25 acres he had bought in 1900. This home is now located across from the Beachwood Library. William Cowle was actively involved in Beachwood's early development and served on the school board from 1922 to 1928 and on the Village Council from 1930 to 1940. Mary married John Sayle, who had grown up on his family's farm on the south side of Fairmount Blvd. near Belvoir Blvd. in Shaker Heights. Richard and Mary had three children: Theron Wilcox, Gilbert Edward and Norman Richard. Norman worked for the Shaker School System for many years and went on to be the Mayor of Willoughby Hills in the 1950's.
1874 Cowle residence just south of the church on the southeast corner of Richmond and South Woodland Rds. Seated are Fanny Wilcox Cowle and Richard Cowle. The name of the women standing and the dog are unknown. The photo is courtesy of Theron Sayle.
It is unknown when the church and the home were torn down; however, the Cowle family sold the land in 1920 to the Van Sweringens. Luckily they got cash for the land. William sold his land further north to the Van Sweringens, except for the plot his home was built on. This home is still located at 2871 Richmond Rd. The Cowle farm fronted Richmond Rd. and consisted of part of Shaker Blvd., Hurlingham, and Bernwood all the way back to Brainard Rd.
The Cowle land has remained idle ever since it was sold to the Vans. Albert Lavin then bought it in the 1950's from the Van Sweringen Land Company when they were charged by the courts to dispose of all their assets. The land then became the property of Max Ratner and Milton Wolf.
In 1985 Ratner and Wolf planned to put an office park on the 31 acres. The park would have consisted of four, three story buildings that would have been built on 45-degree angles to South Woodland. This plan had major opposition from the residents in the community. The plan became part of a lawsuit and after two years, in March of 1987, a settlement was finally reached between the developer and the city. The settlement allowed for the rezoning of the land into two different parcels. The front corner of Richmond and South Woodland Rds. consisted of 18.25 acres to be used for construction of a senior apartment complex. The remaining 12.5 acres closer to I-271 was zoned for office building use.
Trash, Trash, Trash
Over the years Beachwood has been thought of as a strategic location for many projects, however, trash has been one that consistently resurfaces. In the 1950's the southern portion of Beachwood (south of Fairmount Blvd.) wanted to secede to Shaker. Shaker was not interested because it meant educating these rural children. However, Shaker gained a momentary interest when they realized that Beachwood would make a perfect garbage dump. Shaker Heights might have gotten this idea because they knew that at one time several parcels of land in Beachwood were used as a landfill. Mr. George Lungu, who had a landfill and a pig farm from 1927 until 1939, once occupied the land at 24100 Chagrin Blvd. For many years a parcel of land on the south side of Chagrin, at what is now Mercantile Rd. was used as a dump and a truck yard for Bill and Henry Miesz's excavation business. One building that still exists today is their garage, which is now the bus garage for the Beachwood School District.
Shakers Heights' mid 1950's plans for a trash dump and incinerator were refreshed in October of 1960 when Beachwood and Shaker were planning a joint venture. This was first proposed on land where Highpoint Rd. in Commerce Park is now located. The final site selected was on land owned by Mary Fry, which is now known as Park East Drive. The plan called for Beachwood to buy the land and Shaker Heights would pay for the incinerator. Other cities including University Heights, Pepper Pike and Warrensville Heights would also use the facility.
According to former Mayor Vincent " Bud" Hlavin, the Village was running out of space for trash as the Miesz' landfill was quickly filling up. One day Hlavin and Police Chief Johnny Havel went to visit Mary Fry, the owner of 27 acres of land on Chagrin Blvd. After some casual chitchat they explained that the Village would like to buy the southern portion of the land she owned. Her land went from the Park Synagogue Cemetery east to the center of what is now I-271 and all the way south to Harvard Rd. Hlavin and Havel explained to Fry that this would not interfere with the country life she was used to because the winds were out of the west and her farmhouse was north of the intended site. At that point Miss Fry looked up at the weather vain on the barn and made note that the winds were out of the south. This ended any chance of building such a complex. Ultimately, Mary Fry died and the property was developed (See chapter 6).
In 1992 there was a study done by Beachwood to build a trash recycling plant on Green Rd south of the water reservoir on land owned by the City of Cleveland At the time Beachwood did not have its residents sort their trash prior to putting it on the curb for pick up. Instead they paid a higher fee to have it done by an outside service at the dumping facility. This study was done because the cost of dumping and recycling trash was escalating and Beachwood's Mayor Friedman wanted to keep costs in line as the "Tipping" fees from landfill and sorting companies had been escalating out of control
The project was short lived because the City of Cleveland refused to sell off the land, and after a preliminary soil analysis, it was determined that the soil in the area was not conducive to such a project.
In October of 1996 Beachwood trash caught the eye of Beachwood High school student Stephanie Bleyer who wrote an article for the school newspaper "The Beachcomber" exposing the company responsible for recycling the city's trash. Apparently, the city had a contract with Global Waste in concert with Northern Ohio Waste transfer/Recycling station in Oakwood which is a subsidy of Mid-American Waste. The contract called for up to 255 tons of the waste to be recycled at the dumpsite. Bleyer uncovered that this was not being done. Upon making this determination and publishing these discoveries the city made changes as to how the trash would be handled in the future. The change allowed residents an easy but not required opportunity to use blue bags for recyclables. The city service department would then collect these bags separately and take them to a reliable source for recycling.
Upon reaching a settlement with the city, Ratner and Wolf provided an option to sell the land to Life Care Systems of Des Moines, Iowa. Life Care was expected to build and sell 280 upscale senior housing units on the western property Because this was a controversial usage of the land and not exactly what council wanted, several of the council members went to visit a Life Care Center in Pennsylvania. After visiting that center the council felt that Beachwood was getting a top-of–the-line complex. Quoting councilman Martin Arsham "It's the cream of the crop!" One of the conditions to this rezoning was the agreement that the construction would start within two years or the land would revert back to its original zoning. Unfortunately, Life Systems was unable to generate enough interest in the community and the plan never materialized.
The planning for Science Park took hold as early as 1973 when the Regional Planning Commission, under the direction of the very capable Robert M. Parry, took a look at the site and other options for the city to develop a highbred Science Park - Commerce Park. The city wanted to develop a brain center where scientists would be able to develop cutting edge technology for the global community. One thought was to buy up all of the homes on Beacon and Concord and place the new Science Park there. This would have put it adjacent to Commerce Park and remove the only residential area south of Chagrin Blvd. Clearly the land now known as Science Park was the better site. The majority of the land that would make up Science Park was owned by Elmer J. Benes and Central Motors which is owned by the Porter Family.
The first step in developing this office park would be to rezone the land. The rezoning would include the creation of a new classification known as U8A. Similar to U8, this classification required less green space and did not allow for retail sales. The rezoning disappointed Frank Porter, Sr. who was the owner of 30 acres along I-271 and Chagrin Blvd. Porter wanted to develop an auto park, which would have allowed an organized, well-planned mini-community of car dealerships. With the demand for office space increasing, Porter opted to develop the land into an office complex that would complement the city's plans for Science Park. Porter's plans were created with the help of the Architects' Collaborative. This international firm was put together by the world-renowned architect Walter Gropius. Gropius had designed Porter's first major office building, Tower East, (in Shaker Heights) in 1966.
Porter's Beachwood site would be known as "Enterprise Place" and could consist of four office buildings and a premium hotel. In 1986 the first phase became a reality with the construction of Enterprise Place Drive and the first building. There are a lot of buildings in Beachwood, but there is no building that provides such a modern, yet contemporary look, as Porter's Enterprise Place. The building's function, design and art are unparalleled.
Enterprise Place was the first road to be put in, and it was put in at Porter's expense. It only went north off of Chagrin Blvd. to the curb cuts of Porter's Enterprise Place building. In 1988 the city put in the first phase of Science Park Dr. off of Richmond Rd. This road went only as far as the two buildings that were initially built on the corner of Richmond Rd. and Science Park. By 1989 both Enterprise Place and Science Park Dr. were completed and cut through to South Woodland Rd.
By March of 1994 the fifth building in the high tech park was under construction. This would be the new regional home to MBNA. MBNA is a Newark, Delaware based bank known for being one of the largest producers of credit cards in the world. By the beginning of 1995 MBNA had started construction on their second building. Each of these buildings is connected with bridges. One unique feature of the building includes the changing displays of vintage automobiles in the lobby. Today MBNA employs over 700 full -time and part-time employees. This is just one example of the continual growth in tax values that are being generated through the proper planning of the community.
In March of 1997 MBNA received a zoning variance from the city and a building permit to construct their third building. This building matches the first two and have a connecting bridge.
Park East Gains an Exit
While Science Park was developing, Park East Dr. was undergoing its own expansion. The street was originally known as Holiday Pkwy. and was built as a dead-end road. By 1986 the street had been extended south with a small cul-de-sac beyond its original cul-de-sac. In 1986 developers wanted to construct more buildings on the balance of the land that was south of the cul-de-sac. At the same time the city was looking for a way to alleviate the traffic problem of a dead-end street. The solution was a quickly evident. The road was extended and at the new southern point an addition road named Hotel Dr. was built exiting onto Richmond Rd. This allowed for the construction of several additional buildings including a new hotel known as Embassy Suites. In order for all this to work a rezoning of the land was required. There was an attempt to stop the rezoning. This battle ended with little fanfare and Embassy Suites was constructed and opened in October of 1989.
Beachwood has been a desirable place for hotels to locate. This all began with a vision for the future in the late 1950's when the village was preparing its master plan with the help of the Regional Planning Commission. Under the direction of Zoning and Planning Chairman Harvey Friedman, Motor Zones were put into place to allow for hotels and car dealerships. By the 1980's and 1990's every hotel chain wanted a site at the off ramp of I-271 and Chagrin Blvd. With Science Park and Park East filling to capacity, the demand for hotel rooms was growing beyond availability. This is one of the reasons Mariott planned to construct a Residence Inn on Park East. Land that was once home to the Park East Racket Club was cleared with a groundbreaking anticipated by the fall of 1990. Due to an economic dip in the hotel industry and the tightening of funds this project was put on hold until the summer of 1996 when ground was broken for Beachwood's newest hotel.
Signature Square (s)
The only major project in the 1980's not to be challenged by residents was the development by The Goldberg Companies of the Signature Square office buildings.
The unique design of these buildings was the work of Cambridge, Massachusetts architect Donald Hisaka, a former resident of Shaker Heights. Originally planned as a five building development, Signature Square One was built in 1986 and the second building was completed three years later in July of 1989. Updated plans include two more buildings. In December of 1996 The Goldberg Companies received approval for a height variance for building number three. This building with limited frontage would be to the west of the current two buildings. Building four known as Signature Square East is planned for the empty lot east of the two current buildings. As the Goldberg Companies prepare design plans for this fourth building, residents of Bryden Rd. raised concern over a parallel roadway on the property designed to exit along with Bryden Rd. at Richmond Rd. While there was no opposition to buildings one, two and the approval of building three, building four took some compromise. Until a major tenant is found buildings three and four will only exist on paper.
Pavilion adds a Strip, LaPlace expands and changes focus
By 1990 it was clear that Pavilion Mall was not thriving. The concept of upscale mini-malls was not making it anywhere in the country. This was realized several years earlier. 1n 1986, when Beachwood's other upscale mini-mall underwent a $9 million renovation which included a parking garage and the addition of retail space on the east and west end of the building. The then current owners of the property called upon Beachwood resident, James Heller, President of Keeva Kekst & Associates (now known as K Architecture) to totally redesign the Mall. Heller had several challenges including keeping shopkeepers open during the total metamorphosis of the Mall. LaPlace had one thing going for it that Pavilion did not, the expansion and redesign did not require any rezoning.
This picture is taken just west of the Pavilion Mall in 1962. Photo courtesy of The City of Beachwood.
Pavilion's plans included adding a strip shopping center to the east end of the current mall that included a new Finest Supermarket. As soon as the word got out, the community once again became a battle zone. The city understood the neighbors' concerns. They also knew that the owners of Pavilion were hurting financially. Without the zoning change, the mall could end up a haven for discount stores. Pavilion Properties and its principal owner, Milt Wolf clearly needed the city's help. The rezoning of the land was approved with a narrow 4 to 3 vote. This sent the Halburton Rd. residents into an organized attempt to place a referendum vote on the ballot that would have allowed Beachwood residents the right to decide the rezoning of the land. That never happened! The petitions were thrown out on a legal technicality.
While Harvey Friedman had many worthwhile projects on his list over the years there were two that he and the people of Beachwood waited long and hard for. That was the widening of Chagrin Blvd. and Richmond Rd. Friedman knew that without Chagrin Blvd. being a four-lane road, developers would resist building on the remaining vacant land. At the same time traffic on Chagrin Blvd. and on Richmond Rd. were bottlenecked every rush hour. After twenty-five years of pressuring and communicating with four Governors, help was on the way. Chagrin Blvd. was finally widened in 1986. Richmond Rd. followed in 1988. When these two roads were finished, Beachwood was ready for the traffic that would be generated with the completion of Science Park and the development of the remaining valuable empty lots on Chagrin Blvd.
With the help of Council member Ken Krause, Mayor Harvey Friedman cuts the ribbon to the long awaited widening of Richmond Rd. on November 8, 1991.
Beachwood Place Mall Woos Nordstrom
There was an overriding concern among longtime Beachwood residents that with The Village being rezoned from residential housing to cluster type homes, the land for Science Park being rezoning from residential to commercial and the Pavilion Mall being rezoned from office buildings to retail that their elected officials had gone too far. Clearly this bedroom community was running out of space for new homes, and certainly homes that were in the starter range. This concern has long lasting effects relative to the community's residential values.
In the fall of 1991 Beachwood Place Mall asked for a zoning change for six acres of land west of the mall. Their plan included rezoning the land they owned that fell between the back yard of homes on Richmond Rd. and the mall's west parking lot
from residential to retail. The mall's contention was that we can expand without the use of this land, however, they wanted the rezoning on the six acres to enhance parking and enlarge the overall complex. The original plan also included removing the seven homes that fell between LaPlace and George Zeiger Dr. Knowing that some of those homeowners would not move with ease the mall wanted the city to use eminent domain to clear the land. This plan caused a lot of people to check the law books and block the whole plan. The mall had been a major contributor to Beachwood's income tax and property tax and an important player in the community but many felt this request was just too much. Rouse, the owners of Beachwood Place Mall, had demonstrated their ability and interest in being a top-notch respectable developer.
The History of the Corner and its Value.
In 1930 The Heights Press, a forerunner of the Sun Press made mention of The Highland Barbecue. Located on the north side of Kinsman just west of Green Rd., this restaurant was a popular spot with golfers at Highland Park Municipal Golf Course. Just east of the restaurant was a Canfield gas station operated by the same owners as the restaurant, mayor Ben Zink and Councilman Herb Giesler. Giesler was also Beachwood's first Police Chief.
Original Green Acres Tavern and Mel Lindquist's Texaco.
Photo taken early 1960's.
By the 1940's the gas station was operated by Mel Lindquist. Lindquist also served as a part time policeman in the Village. The restaurant was known by many names including Horrigan's Tavern, The Highland Park Tavern the Highland Park Haven, and the Beachwood Inn. By the 1950's it was known as the Green Acres and operated by the Benz family. In 1966 the land was ready for a face-lift. At that time the Benz family leased the land to Neil Malamud for a period of thirty years. Malamud then built a new building that housed both a gas station and a restaurant. For many years the restaurant was a popular Beachwood hangout known as the Ground Floor. The Lindquist family continued to operate the gas station until the beginning of 1997. It should be noted that in 1966 the County valued the land and both older buildings at $26,500.00. Today a Starbucks coffee house built in 1999 anchors the corner.
The expansion plans included 50 new stores and an additional department store. In order for Mayor Friedman to support the plan, Rouse had to assure the Mayor of several things. One was that a world class store such as Nehman Marcus, Lord and Taylor or Nordstrom would be the new anchor. Friedman understood the importance of keeping Rouse content. On March 15, 1993 six of the seven council members followed Friedman's lead and voted for the zoning change. Longtime councilman Larry Small voted against the change. The rezoning did not include the use of eminent domain to procure the seven houses on Richmond Rd. The city was not going to force the owners of these homes off their property.
While the rezoning was approved it was undetermined who the world class department store would be. While negotiations were ongoing for a tenant two things were happening. Rouse continued to purchase as many of the seven homes as they could. This was done for a variety of reasons. One being that the mall wanted the land should they ever need it and they wanted to make sure that those who felt the mall was infringing on their life had the opportunity to sell their home and cash out. Some did and three did not. The other activity going on was a community wide grass roots effort to stop the mall from expanding,
The group known as "The Committee to Preserve Beachwood" was formed with Beachwood resident and Attorney Howard Rossen as the group's spokesperson. At the time Rossen and Martin Berwitt were both running against Friedman for position of Mayor. Petitions requesting a referendum vote by the voters of Beachwood were compiled and submitted to the Clerk of Council, the very capable Carol Vineyard. Without much delay the city, under the direction of Law Director Louis Orkin, said that the filing of the petitions was invalid because it was not given to the City Auditor as written in the city's charter. Beachwood had no City Auditor. One would say that Dale Davis, who was the finance director, would have been the city auditor. However, in July of 1993 the election board ruled that serving the petition to the Clerk of Council was enough to get it on the ballot, according to Director Tom Hayes because the effort made met "the spirit of the law". The matter would therefore be voted on in the general election that November.
City Hall was now in a quagmire. The mayor and the law director took the matter to the Ohio Supreme Court for a ruling. At the same time Council and the mayor were under attack from their constituency. In September of 1993 in a letter to the editor of the Plain Dealer Councilman Ken Kraus made it clear that the council members felt that the issue should go to the voters, and an ordinance (1993-94) introduced such action. However, the Law Director and the Mayor proceeded on their course.
By September 24th of 1994 the case was closed. The Ohio Supreme Court, under the direction of Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer, voted in favor of the mall. Moyer had actually voted in favor of the residents; however, the majority vote was not in their favor. Coincidentally, this was the same technicality that caused the referendum on the rezoning for the Pavilion expansion to be disqualified.
The Mall (Rouse) got what they wanted. They now had the right to have their land rezoned. In October of 1993 Rouse placed an advertisement in the Sun Press titled "Community Update". It was a letter informing customers of their plans to continue forward on the expansion process. The project was ready for the drawing board with a scaled down version including 40 stores and a yet to be announced anchor department store. The letter was from Paul Schiffer, who was and continues to serve as the Vice-President and General Manager of the mall. While Schiffer was the ugly point man against the referendum he has always been overly responsive in meeting all of the community's needs.
By the winter of 1995 the announcement was made that Nordstrom was opening their first store in Ohio and it would be at Beachwood Place. Harvey Friedman now had for Beachwood what he felt they needed, a world class department store. With a department store dedicated to customer service as strongly as Nordstrom is, Dillard and Saks chose to remodel and enlarge their stores. Dillard extended their building south and added a third floor that opened in November of 1986. Saks put a new face on their building and did some internal remodeling. The city and the schools would now enjoy additional revenue.
There was still an open issue to be resolved. How does one get a referendum on the ballot? Beachwood's grass roots groups were 0-3. While the battle had been brewing council realized the need to make several changes in the charter and this was one of them. In November of 1994 a vote was placed on the ballot to allow for a variety of changes in the charter. Article IV clearly states that referendum petitions are to be bound together as one instrument and given to the Clerk of Council or the assistant Clerk of Council.
Religious Organizations increase their Beachwood Holdings.
The Montefiore Home for the Aged, located on Mayfield Rd in Cleveland Heights, was looking for land to build a new facility. While Beachwood Place Mall, LaPlace, Menorah Park and the Village had managed to pack a lot of activity into one major tract of land, there was still room for two more structures. One would be Menorah Park's Stone Gardens, which was built in 1994 and Montefiore, which was completed in 1991. Stone Gardens consists of 66 assisted living apartments that are operated by Menorah Park.
Montefiore was started in 1882 when the Fraternal Order of Kesher Shel Barzel wanted to provide a place for the aged to reside and have proper care. Their first location was East 55th and Woodland Ave. The home was originally called "Home for Aged and Infirm Israelites". The name was changed in its second year of existence when Sir Moses Montefiore of England sent the Home a very large contribution. In April of 1917 the home was moved to Mayfield and Lee Rds. It had 45 private rooms. Over the years the Mayfield Rd location served the community beyond its expectations. It was now time to relocate. After an extensive search, Menorah Park sold them 10 acres of their land. This land consisted of gullies and rough terrain. The leadership of Montefiore felt it was worth spending additional money to prepare the land for their new building.
In 1991 the new 240-bed facility opened at the south end of David N. Myers Parkway. This was only after the Cleveland Jewish community supported a fundraising effort that generated $12.7 million toward the $22 million facility. The new facility is not only the home to 240 long-term care residents; it also provides short-term rehabilitation. Montefiore also provides an inpatient and home-based hospice program.
The JCC and Shaaray Tikvah come to Beachwood.
After several years of serious study and analysis, the Jewish Community Center decided to locate a second facility closer to the heart of the Jewish community. With many Jews moving to Solon and Bainbridge, Beachwood was becoming a more centralized point. It should be noted that you do not need to be Jewish to belong to the JCC. The JCC is similar (in principle) to the YMCA. The Cleveland Area JCC is the result of the 1948 merger of four agencies that did similar recreational and cultural work.
The JCC is built on land that was once proposed as a shopping center. The courts ruled that the deed restrictions relative to single family housing must be kept intact. However, those deed restrictions were no longer retaining the respect that the courts had earlier deemed enforceable. In fact several years earlier the city had allowed The Temple branch and The College of Jewish Studies to be built on adjacent land.
Prior to the JCC being built there were additional controversial proposals for the land besides the shopping center. In 1976 the Board of Trustees of Cuyahoga Community College were looking to build a permanent structure for their eastern campus. One of the members of the college's planning and evaluation Board was Bert Wolstein. An issue was raised that there could have been a conflict of interest because Wolstein had ties to the owners of the land. The trustees of the land were Julius Paris and William Warren. Over time some of the owners included Max and Albert Ratner, Dominic Visconsi, Robert Lavin and Milton Wolf. There was also an earlier attempt in 1974 by Living Homes Inc. to build 315 units in a cluster arrangement. This would have provided the schools with additional students and added revenue from the increased value of the property. Increased value both to the city and the schools income from the increased value of the land due to its usage. Unfortunately, because the JCC is a tax-exempt organization this would be another piece of land that would not generate any revenue to the city from property tax.
The JCC was dedicated on Tuesday, December 9th, 1986, and named the Mandel JCC after Morton, Jack, and Joseph Mandel and their families. The Mandels have long been major contributors to the needs of Cleveland and its Jewish community. Today the JCC is under the leadership of Robert Cahen.
Over the years the JCC has had several additions,including a wellness center operated by Mt. Sinai Hospital. This facility initially known as the Annie May Myers Wellness Center. The center was created to serve those in need of physical and neurological rehabilitation. One of the features of this facility includes small aquatic pool designed
specifically for physical therapy. Over the years many well-known physical therapist and medical practitioners have worked at the center including the world renowned Ari Weiss.
In August of 1994 the JCC hosted an international event known as the Maccabi Youth Games. This event is held annually. It allows Jewish athletes the opportunity to participate in sporting events under the banner of the Jewish Community Centers of North America. The games were started in 1982 as the future of the Olympics was in question and the threat of increasing anti-semitisim created fear that Jewish athletes might not be safe to attend. With over 2800 participates from forty-five U.S. cities and five foreign countries going for the gold, this event was no easy task to plan. However, for the most part it went off with very few problems. Many residents hosted athletes in their homes.
In 1986 the Mayfield Temple, then located on Lander Rd. under the direction of Rabbi Shtull, relocated to Fairmount Blvd. It was at this time that the name was changed back to its original Hebrew name, Shaarey Tikvah, which translates in English to "Gates of Hope". The land and building had belonged to The Chapel, which is now located in Bainbridge and is known as Parkside Church.
Nov. 1986, Doron Holzer, Fred Messing, Alvin Lewis, Rabbi Jacob Shtull and Judy Holzer were just some that marched from Lander Rd. to the new location of Shaarey Tikvah.
In May of 1993 Rabbi Shtull retired and the leadership was turned over to Rabbi Gary Robuck.
Residential housing continues - New Condos and New Streets
While "The Village" was becoming reality more condos were being built in other parts of the community as the demand for new housing of all types continued. In June of 1984 ten new condominiums were under construction on the southwest corner of Richmond Rd. and Fairmount Blvd. Known as "Ten Courts", this complex would fill up quickly. That land had sat idle for at least 60 years. At one time it was part of a farm owned by Burt Truscott who was a Beachwood councilman in 1919. Mr. Truscott had operated a cider mill on his property. It is thought that at one time there was a riding stable known as "The Beechwood Riding Club" on the property. The following year 49 cluster type condominiums were built on the southeast corner of Richmond Rd. and Fairmount Blvd. This was the property once that had been owned by the Catholic Church. Several people had owned this land after the church sold it before Ken Sacks finally developed it. In 1981 one of its prior owners Herbert R. Chisling, Jr. wanted to build a four story apartment building that would match the one on the north side of Fairmount Blvd. These condos like all the others being built in the community sold quickly and continue to increase in value.
The 1980's also brought several new streets to the community using the last portions of farmland. On the south side of town Woodside was being put in. The section from Letchworth to Sulgrave came first and then the cul-de-sac west from Sulgrave was put in. Longtime Beachwood resident and councilman Martin Rini owned a majority of the land west of Sulgrave. This road was originally known on the plat books as Falkner and crossed Bryden.
The early 1980's also brought the last of the original Van Sweringen streets to be put in. Known as Bernwood this street had been planned as part of the Van's Subdivision #33 also known as block 4 of the "Shaker Country Estates". Original plans called for this street to start at Hendon and cut across Annesley and Hurlingham, east and across Brainard Rd to run parallel to Gates Mill Blvd. and ending just west of Lander Rd. at Fairmount Rd. However, a much simpler street was put in running east off of Hurlingham Rd. and ending just prior to I-271. Beachwood's longtime resident and developer Archie Drost had owned this land. Hurlingham Rd. resident Mrs. Allyn remembers a creek running under Hurlingham Rd. onto what is now Bernwood Rd. and exiting south towards Shaker Blvd.
The 1980's also brought new roads to the north side of town. B&W Builders built Orchard Way and Margo Court. This land had once been part of the Kerruish farm. The Kerruish farmhouse is still standing at 2270 Richmond Rd. In 1987 T&C construction developed Meadoway Dr., off North Woodland Rd. This small street was originally planned by the Rapid Transit Land Company in the 1920's. In 1987 Arthur Drive was developed on land that had belonged to Fairmount Temple. While the street is now known as Blossom it was originally named Arthur after the late Arthur Lelyveld, the Rabbi at Fairmount Temple. It should be noted that Lelyveld was alive when the name change occurred. The last residential street to be developed was Timberlane Dr. from Brentwood Rd. to Green Rd. This street was actually placed on the county records in December of 1923 by the Heister Companies, along with Greenlawn Ave. and Wendover Dr.(then known as Isabelle). The addition of Orchard Way, Margo Court, Blossom (Arthur) and Timberlane Dr. provided prospective homeowners a place to build to be within walking distance to area synagogues.
Finding land to build new homes on in Beachwood is becoming harder and harder. There are no tracts of land zoned for housing other than the land just west of the JCC. While this land is currently deed restricted for residential use, its long-term use for single family homes would be unwarranted because of its size and its isolated location. This leaves only a few remaining lots on Woodside,Blossom and Timberlane.
The only other possible site for new homes would be on Honey Locust Ln. This is a paper street located off the south side of North Woodland Rd. and runs parallel with Allen Dr. This street was put onto the city's map in the early 1990's without the approval of all the land owners. It would have needed to exit onto North Woodland Rd. or Fairmount Blvd. Without the purchase of the land fronting one of these streets this road and the lots on it are landlocked and with little value. Clearly, the road's dedication by the city was done premature of any agreement by all the parties needed. In 1999 the city entered into an agreement with the land owner on North Woodland that would preclude the city from allowing the land access through the current owners lot as long as the land stayed in their family.
Harvey Friedman's Quest for More Land (for Beachwood)
Beachwood's interest in acquiring or annexing the land known as Warrensville Township had been an on again off again issue for decades. Beachwood, Warrensville Heights, Shaker Heights, part of Cleveland, University Heights and part of Orange were all once in Warrenville Township. As these communities incorporated into separate villages only 680 acres remain. The City of Cleveland owns most of the land within the township. The county also owned a small portion along with the U.S. Government. Its residential community consists of 159 homes on several short streets between Northfield and Warrensville Center Rds. The land has been in the Warrensville School district since the incorporation of Warrensville Heights.
Aerial photo of Highland View Hospital in Warrensville Township
on land that would become part of Beachwood. Taken Approx 1996
The history of the township dates back to 1912 when the City of Cleveland established Cooley Farm. This farm was established initially to give the prisoners in the newly constructed workhouse something to do while paying their debt to society. The food grown there was used within the city's hospitals and its jail. The farms included a piggery, a goat farm for milk, a dairy, a blacksmith shop and a sawmill. By the time the city was done buying up farmland they had over 2000 acres in the township. In 1913 a new Sunny Acres sanitarium was built for those recovering from tuberculosis. While the patients were sick the fresh air and the opportunity to farm, aided in their recovery. Several years later the city of Cleveland built an infirmary to replace the one located on Scranton Rd. Over the years the infirmary has had many additions. In 1953 the large "X" building was built and the name changed to Highland View Hospital. Over the years as medical needs changed, so did the use of these two complexes. Since the 1980's only the Sunny Acres building is used. The County's Metro Health Hospital based on Scranton Rd runs it. The facility focuses on long term rehabilitation. It is the "H" building (Highland View) and several older buildings that are located within the new Beachwood Boundary.
This service lead by Rabbi David Genuth who was one of Cleveland's long time Judaic leaders. It was held in a revolving chapel at Highland View Hospital on a Friday evening in October of 1960. This room was known as the Chapel of all Faiths.
Because this land was far from the center of town, housing was provided for the highly skilled staff. Over the years the housing was turned over to longtime city employees in a supervisory role at either of the hospitals or the workhouse. Some of these structures go back prior to the turn of the century and were farmhouses. One of those longtime city employees and residents was Mr. William Gant. Mr. Gant started as a guard in 1952 and worked his way up to grounds' superintendent for the city workhouse. Mr. Gant lived in several homes in the township. If one wants to know the history of the area Mr. Gant knows it. According to Gant the old clock in the clock tower of the old infirmary is now located at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland. Another longtime Workhouse supervisor that lived in the area was William Cascito. While he was the garage superintendent at the workhouse he was also a policeman for the township. The house he lived in was on Richmond Rd. just across the street from the "Haunted House" north of Harvard Rd. Many of those who traveled Richmond Rd. on a regular basis can remember that Cascito used his own car as a police car and that it was not your usual patrol car. It was an Buick Electra 225 and he often parked it parallel to the road in front of his home. For many of these hard working city employees living out near their work allowed them quick access in case of a problem, and it gave them country living. As the City of Cleveland prepared this land for the Chagrin Highlands' project and the demise of Highland View, many of these buildings have been torn down.
Under state law a township and its trustees have limited power to pass legislation to develop the community. Meanwhile, Beachwood was running out of land for commercial development. Therefore, these 680 acres were prime for Beachwood's next move. After all, Beachwood had the financial where-with-all to develop the land. With a substantial amount of money in the bank for construction of roads and land improvements they could, with the right developer, build a premier corporate park. By 1988 Mayor Harvey Friedman was ready to take on the awesome task to put all the players together to make it happen. It should be noted that this was Harvey Friedman's forte. Friedman was an expert at putting all the parties together to create a win-win situation. Without this expertise, many developments in Beachwood would never have happened.
By December of 1988 there were four offers to Cleveland from neighboring communities to develop and share in the proceeds of this land. Because the majority of the land was owned by the City of Cleveland, they had the final say on the how the land would be developed. Beachwood's offer was the best. Beachwood and the City of Cleveland would split the revenue from personal income tax that would be generated for the next 99 years. Warrenville Heights offered 75% for 20 years. Orange had also offered to annex just 94 acres and split the revenue for 99 years.
L to R Beachwood Mayor Harvey Friedman, and Udris, Director of Economic Development, City of Cleveland, Charles B. Miner, Vice President - Group Services Figgie International presenting Beachwood's plan for the proposed Chagrin Highlands' Development.
An additional key player in this deal was someone to develop and occupy the land. Freidman and the City of Cleveland had found a suitor. Figgie International, then a Fortune 500 manufacturing conglomerate, was looking to relocate back into northeast Ohio. They had moved two years earlier from their Willoughby headquarters to Virginia and wanted to return home. Their original plan was to lease all 680 acres of the land from the City of Cleveland and build a 3.2 million square foot world headquarters. Figgie would develop the balance of the land for office, hotel and limited retail space. Figgie's development partner in the plan would be the Richard Jacobs Group. Jacobs was a longtime shopping center developer and the new owner of the Cleveland Indians. This plan was clearly a win-win for all parties involved.
For all this to happen there were several obstacles to overcome and the ball was in the city of Cleveland's court under the direction of Council President George Forbes. By January of 1989 Warrensville had increased their offer to match Beachwood's. Being the dealmaker that he was, Council President Forbes made the decision to allow all of the community to share in the opportunity. On January 28th Forbes held an all day meeting with representatives of each of the communities and Charlie Minor, the Vice-President of development for Figgie.
The deal was as follows:
1. The development would be known as Chagrin Highlands.
2. Figgie would build a world headquarters building by a specific time.
3. Beachwood would annex (gain) 405 acres.
4. Warrenville Heights would annex (gain) 60 acres.
5. Orange would annex 95 (gain) acres.
6. The Township would retain 120 acres and petition the State of Ohio to become a Village, known as Highland Hills.
7. All property taxes for education except those from 26 acres in Orange would go to Warrensville Schools
8. Income taxes earned would be divided among the four communities as follows:
In order for the plan to work there were numerous steps that needed to occur. One would be the incorporation of Warrensville Township as a village. This would then allow the Township to levy taxes. Another prerequisite (mandated by the state) would be the approval of all the municipalities within three miles of the Township. All 20 approved this change except for one. Shaker refused and played hard ball. They wanted part of the action to help support their schools. Shaker held out until after their council and Mayor had been elected in November of 1989.
The second would be a "yes" vote from the voters in Orange. According to the Orange Village Charter the annexation of any land into their community needed to be voted on. This was not a problem and it passed in November of 1989.
The third was the State of Ohio's approval of funds for highway work, which included an exit ramp for I-271 at Harvard Rd., and the widening of Richmond Rd between Chagrin Blvd. and Miles Rd. Without this there would be no way to move the people to and from the 680 acres. In fact, Beachwood's intersection of Chagrin Blvd. and Richmond Rd. had just made the top of the list as the busiest intersection in the county with 63,417 vehicles passing through it daily. This little community now had more traffic per day than downtown Cleveland.
The fourth would be a stipulation by Figgie that the zoning in each of the communities should be consistent so the project would not appear to be in four communities. Beachwood's Mayor Harvey Friedman quickly moved for this approval at a special meeting of the council.
The fifth was the incorporation of the Village of Highland Hills and the relocation of their Police, Fire and Service Department Buildings to land that was within their new boundary. They had been renting space from the city of Cleveland in an old dilapidated building that was now in Beachwood. Additionally, the federal government would need to sell and vacate the land they owned. Their land included the Army Reserves' building on the northwest corner of Harvard and Richmond. A deal was made with the Pentagon that allowed Figgie to have the Army property for free, as long as they could find a new home for the Army and pay for any improvements needed. The new location agreed upon was the surplus Ohio National Guard Armory on Green Rd.
While all of these seemed simple they were not. Highland Hills refused to vacate the two buildings they had used for their Police, Fire and Service Department. Much of the dispute came from a side argument between the City of Cleveland's desire to expand its Highland View Cemetery, which was in the Village. Highland Hills said "no" to the request and the City of Cleveland retaliated by evicting the Village from the two buildings. Clearly, it made no sense to stay in these two buildings since they were no longer in the Village, as they were inside the newly defined boundary of Beachwood. Highland Hills' Mayor Robert Nash had contended that Figgie had promised to pay for a new Village Hall and was unwilling to leave their current space until that was accomplished. In October of 1992 Judge Richard McMonagle gave the new Village until December 1st to vacate the buildings, and Cleveland's newly elected Mayor White publicly threatened to lobby the state to revoke the Village's status as a Village. The Village moved into the Old Shaker House Motel on Northfield and built a simple yet functional Fire Station on Harvard at Warrensville.
This home was once the farmhouse of William Teare, an early Warrensville Township settler. It was later used as the first Sunny Acres Hospital. Just prior to being torn down in the early 1980's it had been used by local radio stations every October as a haunted house. The building behind the house was quarters for those who worked at the workhouse.
The other issue that was a problem and continues to be a problem was the State of Ohio's commitment to widening Richmond Rd. and building an interchange at I-271 at Harvard Rd. When the Chagrin Highlands' project was proposed, George Voinovich was the mayor of Cleveland and this was one of his success stories. When he became Governor he made a commitment to build an interchange at Harvard Rd at I-271. He also made a commitment to widen Richmond Rd. from Chagrin Blvd.
to Miles Rd. and Chagrin Blvd. from I-271 to Lander Rd. With this commitment the project was a sure thing. It should be noted that there were no other major developments in the state of Ohio, excluding the Polaris project north of Columbus, as big as this project.
Photo of original Figgie World Headquarters building.
It was designed by Paul Volpe of City Architects Inc.
The basement was built for a smaller building, and removed from the site in 1999 when contruction of the current building was started, for Scott Industries the predicessor to Figgie.
However, there would be two events that would cause the project to be delayed. Figgie International went from a history that had profitable record breaking quarterly reports to that of becoming a financial disaster. At the same time there was a new Mayor in Cleveland, Michael White, who did not see the value in embracing the development.
Knowing that their agreement with the City of Cleveland required Figgie to obtain a building permit by June 30th of 1994, Figgie submitted their plan to Beachwood's planning and zoning committee for approval in early June of that year. The original plan, according to the City of Cleveland, called for a 200,000 square foot world class office building. The plan submitted called for a 50,000 sq. foot office building. Because the plans met the codes and ordinances for Beachwood there was no reason not to approve the plans and issue a permit. The three surrounding communities and Cleveland conducted a quick lobbying effort. However, Beachwood saw no reason to hold up the permit. This upset Mayor Michael White. By June of 1994 the Win-Win for Cleveland was over. The annuity that Voinivich and Harvey Friedman had developed for Cleveland was about to take a stop in the Courthouse.
Cleveland contended that Figgie had violated their agreement. Cleveland claimed that Figgie did not meet its performance obligation in a variety of areas. One was their obligation to tear down the old Highland View Hospital now in Beachwood that had become an eyesore and a health concern because it contained asbestos and other hazardous materials. They also felt they violated the agreement because of the size of the new World Headquarters Building. The Mayor of Cleveland was equally upset that Figgie was allowing its quiet partner, The Richard Jacobs Group increased involvement in the development. According to the City of Cleveland Figgie was also in violation because they did not have a title to the land the building was being built on. At the same time the City of Cleveland refused to extend a water line to the project.
In July of 1994 the city of Cleveland with the support of its council informed Figgie that the deal was off, that Figgie had violated the agreement. By December Figgie and Jacobs were suing the city of Cleveland over their right to develop the land. Figgie did get a temporary restraining order against the city in December, however, and Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Ralph A. McAllister froze all action until the matter could be resolved. This matter became complicated because Figgie was internally falling apart. The longtime profitable conglomerate was loosing money. Stockholders, including members of management, sued founder and then Chairman Harry E. Figgie, Jr. for wasting corporate assets, self-dealing and general mismanagement. In June of 1995 the matter was settled with the Figgie Family paying $3.3 million back to the company.
For the next three years Figgie, Jacobs and the City of Cleveland met to resolve the issue. In late 1996 an agreement had been reached, however, the City of Cleveland has yet to receive their council's stamp of approval on a pre-trial renegotiated settlement. At the same time Beachwood Mayor Merle Gorden has been working feverishly to get a renewed commitment from the Governor for a commitment to build the interchange at I-271 and Harvard Rd. along with widening Richmond Rd. Gorden knows without these infrastructure changes the development of this land will not happen.
In March of 1997 the interchange and the widening of Richmond Rd. were put back on the priority list after many meetings with Gorden, the Governors office, Figgie and the city of Cleveland. The cost of the interchange including with land acquisition is $15.6 million. The state is paying half of the cost and the other half is being split up with the city of Cleveland providing $4.5 million in land. The Jacobs Group, Figgie's partner with the brains to develop the land, will contribute approx. $2.5 million and Beachwood will contribute $1 million. Beachwood was told that without their contribution the interchange was as good as dead. The council passed a resolution approving the payment. With the State now ready to put the roadwork in necessary to move the traffic, the agreement between Figgie and the city of Cleveland was "re-inked" in June of 1997. Plans were now put back on track. The Jacobs Group could now move ahead and develop plans for the land The first building to be built was the home to Scott Industries the former name of Figgie Corporation. This building was built in the same location as the original intended Figgie building that started and ended with its foundation in 1996. It should be noted that the old foundation was removed before the new building was built.
The Jacobs group continues to develop the project with multiple buildings being built in each of the municipalities . For an update on the project visit the web site of the Jacobs group at www.REJacobsgroup.com."
The last piece of the puzzle that was renegotiated is how the schools will divide their portion of the revenue from property tax. Without the Beachwood school board's approval the master agreement gave away the school district's right to their share of the property tax and gave it to Warrensville Heights. After a seven-year battle and much mud slinging the two school systems came to an out of court agreement with the help of federal mediator Robert Duncan. The agreement gives Beachwood Schools
30% of the revenue and requires the two school systems to develop joint educational programs. It has been said that the solution came about when the two school Superintendents - Dr. Paul Williams from Beachwood and Wenifort Washington from Warrensville Heights got together to work out an educational solution in lieu of a legal battle.
The end of an era at City Hall and New Leadership
In May of 1988 I was pushing my young son in a stroller. Every four feet my son would get a jolt if I did not lift the wheels over the uneven blocks of the sidewalk. I wrote a letter to the then Mayor, Harvey Friedman explaining the dilemma and asking what could be done. I was willing to pay for my share of replacing the sidewalk. Three weeks later our street received all new sidewalks. I thought wow, now what is this going to cost? To my amazement it was free! This quick action only reinforced what Don Basch, a longtime Beachwood resident, had told me when we were looking for a new home. It was true - Beachwood was the best city one could live and it had great city services.
Four years later I wrote to the mayor asking that our street be resurfaced. I also mentioned that I did not want it to be done using the chip and tar method. That was a common practice in Beachwood. A coating of tar would be placed on a road then cinders would follow with a steamroller pressing the cinders into the tar. While this was low cost, it made a mess of you car. I quickly received a letter from the Mayor assuring me that the road would be completely replaced along with new aprons for our drives in the spring of 1993. Wow, was that great service! Again, I was living in heaven. What more could one ask for?
What City Hall and I did not know was that the Service Director and the Finance Director, along with several contractors, had a scheme going that was "win-win" situation for them. The problem was it was, a "lose-lose" for the taxpayers. The courts put several of these people behind bars.
It should be noted that Friedman was without question the most dedicated person that the city had going for it. Harvey and his wife Shirley moved to Beachwood in 1950. He served on Council from 1956 until he won election to the mayor's position in 1980 upon George Zeiger's retirement. Friedman was known as "Mr. Beachwood". While Friedman might have been viewed as tough, he was easy to work with if you shared the same goal that he did, which was the development of Beachwood. His visionary plan from his days on the Planning Commission kept him focused for 40 years. Best put by longtime Beachwood resident Helen Huber; "Harvey and the boys were bright young men with a vision and they kept to it". Ultimately Harvey Friedman resigned due to poor health in May of 1995 at the age of 75.
Several months prior to Friedman's resignation he stepped down temporarily due to health problems and spent much of his time in the hospital recovering. Council President Merle Gorden took over the reins of City Hall as the acting mayor. Gorden first came to council in 1987; however, he has been a part of Beachwood since he was a child. He grew up on Twickenham and served for many years as an active member of the Volunteer Fire Department.
July 18th, 1995 Merle Gorden was voted into council at a special election. He ran unopposed. From July of 1995 until the end of 1996 Gorden had the responsibility of putting together a new team. When it was timeto find a new Finance Director, Gorden selected Dennis Kennedy. Gorden also needed to select a new Service Director. Dale Pekarek was chosen to fill this position.
There was one more appointment that Gorden would have to make. However, this one was due to attrition. Police Chief Robert Abrams was retiring after 32 years of service to Beachwood. When Abrams joined the department on October 1st, 1966 the department had only 9 officers. When he started, Shaker police were still radio dispatching for Beachwood during the midnight shift and on weekends. Abrams remembers the days when the police drove station wagons that also served as the city's ambulances. According to Abrams " If some one was sick, we scooped them up, threw an oxygen mask on them and drove as fast as we could to Mt. Sinai or Suburban Hospital".
Abrams took command of the department in 1980. He has molded it into one of the most respected departments in state. When the FBI needed help with an eastside caper, it often turned to Beachwood to provide assistance. It was under his command that the SWAT team and motorcycle group was implemented, along with the state of the art firing range. Abrams was also responsible for bringing the staffing up to 40 officers. Upon Abrams' retirement, Mayor Gorden had to make a very tough decision. He needed to appoint a replacement for Abrams. His choice was Lt. Mark Sechrist, who was the current commander of the SWAT team and joined the department in 1978. Prior to being a part of Beachwood's Police Department he worked with the County Sheriff's Department and was a dispatcher for Pepper Pike. Sechrist's modus operandi has not changed since he was appointed Chief. In lieu of a three-piece suit, he was often times dressed in his uniform and could be found with a rookie patrolman or helping dispatcher Brian Moore in the radio room. When Sechrist came on the force in 1978 he was one of 7 new hires. He along with Darrel Dunham, Mike Nelson, Jack O'Donell, Pat Sullivan, Jack Wilson, and David Zimmerman were hired due to the anticipated opening of Beachwood Place Mall. This was the largest increase at one time in the history of the department. Six of the seven are still with the department. David Zimmerman left the department in 1987 to join the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office as an attorney. It should be noted that many officers continue their studies and become attorneys or join the FBI. Several have gone on to other cites in higher ranking responsibilities including Thomas Murphy who is now the Chief of Police in Garfield Heights. Joseph Orosz a former Lieutenant, is now the Chief of police in Chesterland. A recent announcement of the city's desire to hire seven officers brought out over 400 applicants.
Out with the old, in with the new
Beachwood's schools are one of the key reasons that people with children want to live in the community. Beachwood spends more dollars per student than any other school system in Ohio. The students' college entrance exams are proof that the dollars are spent wisely.
Source: Beachwood Board of Education 1996 Annual Data
The newest addition to the school system is the early childhood center built on Fairmount Blvd. This is a bittersweet project because in order to build the new facility, the eight-room schoolhouse erected in 1927 had to be demolished. The school board and their architect, Phil Hart, were unable to find a way to save this piece of our history. The new schoolhouse will include the pre-school, the kindergarten and the administrative staff. The name "Beechwood School", which is fashioned from sandstone and appeared at the top of the old building, can be found on the backside of the new buildings ground sign. The high school will be used as a temporary home for the little ones and the administration during this time.
Early Childhood Center
Beachwood Schools took education one step further in 1987 when they offered an optional pre-school to the community. The program is a five day structured learning environment with optional afternoon, early morning and/or late afternoon sessions. The program has allowed parents to place their children, ages 3 and 4, with professional educators. The curriculum is supervised by the principal of Fairmount and provides the school and the students early exposure to each other.
The technology lab at the middle school where teacher Chris Jordanek is helping Allison Brodfield, Karin Kushnir, and Kelly Ravitz. Photo taken by Joseph W. Darwal.
Beachwood was started in 1915 because education was a central focus. Today the schools continue to be the center of the community, and the major contributor to the communities value.
Sidebar: THE PIONEERS