CLEVELAND, Ohio — Four public meetings on various aspects of Cleveland’s high-profile medical mart project have been set for early 2010.
The four meetings, scheduled between Jan. 11 and Feb. 8, will focus on city planning, the project’s economic impact, architecture and the medical mart’s impact on downtown’s Mall greenspace, the Plain Dealer reported.
Chicago-based Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. (MMPI), which is to develop and own the medical mart for its first 20 years, has agreed to the meetings, according to City Councilman Joe Cimperman, who helped organize the meetings. An MMPI spokeswoman was out of the office Friday and not available for comment.
Earlier this month, MMPI announced big changes to the project’s plans, including changing the location of the medical mart’s showroom from St. Clair Avenue to Mall C, a prospect that has raised controversy about using public land for the benefit of a private firm.
But that’s not the only change that has sparked an outcry from the city. MMPI also wants to abandon plans to use the nearly 90-year-old Public Auditorium for conference space, citing the building’s deteroriating physical condition. MMPI says getting Public Auditorium’s heating, cooling, electrical and mechanical systems into usable shape could cost around $90 million, about triple what the company had budgeted for as part of the $425 million medical mart project.
MMPI had negotiated a $20 million deal with the city to buy Public Auditorium and the city’s old convention center, which lies underneath Malls B and C. While the convention center remains in the company’s plans, the changes require MMPI to renegotiate its deal with the city. With anger rising over what Mayor Frank Jackson called MMPI’s “public trashing” of Public Auditorium, those negotiations could become confrontational.
With Cleveland fighting similar planned projects in New York and Nashville for the distinction of hosting the nation’s first-ever medical-equipment showcase, time may not be on the city’s side as it evaluates MMPI’s new proposal.
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