Updated: 2:45 p.m.
CLEVELAND, OHIO — The final major barrier to starting work on a medical mart and convention centerfell at noon Monday when Cuyahoga County Commissioners signed a $20 million agreement that would give them most of the land they want to build the facility.
The deal is for $20 million, but the land — the site of the old convention center where the new facility will be built — costs $17.5 million. In addition, the county would give Cleveland, which currently owns the land, $2.5 million to renovate Perk Park.
The park recently was the site of a high-profile, brutal shooting, and the funds would allow the city to remake (and potentially begin to erase) the blight associated with the location, County Commissioner Tim Hagan said.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson called the agreement a local “stimulus package.” Forty percent of the workers who build the medical mart complex would be Cuyahoga County residents, and half of those would live in Cleveland.
Meanwhile, Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., the Chicago company that will build and manage the convention center and medical mart, would require its general contractors to hire 25 percent of their design and construction workforce from county-certified small business enterprises.
The city also would share in revenue created by any naming-rights deals for the new convention center.
For the commissioners, paying only $17.5 million for the old convention center land gives the them room to bargain with private land owners whose property may also make up part of the new facility. Cleveland wants $25 million for the land.
“The mayor was very sensitive to that” need for a fixed price for the convention center land, Commissioner Hagan said.
The county cinched an operating agreement on April 16 with Medical Mart Properties (MMPI). The hope is that the medical mart complex will make Cleveland a hub for medical conventions and related commercial activity.
County officials had set a deadline of Friday to complete a land deal, saying they would start looking for an alternate site — most likely in the city’s hospital-heavy University Circle area — if they couldn’t have the convention center property.
There are intrinsic advantages to the old convention center location. One advantage is the accompanying public hall could be used as early as a year-and-a-half from now to hold small medical conventions.
Now, MMPI executives must make good on their portion of the deal: convince over the next year 10 tenants to spend three years in the medical mart, and land commitments for five trade shows and another five conferences in the same time period.
Hagan said the county now has the option to choose between purchasing private land or — if negotiations go sour — turning over the adjacent county building to complete the convention center. Next however, will be the final transfer of the title — when Cleveland would receive $10 million.
When the county issues bonds for construction about a year from now, the city would receive another $10 million, Hagan said.