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Medical mart development agreement released, OK expected by next week

Officials from Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., which would run the facility, could sign the agreement as early as Thursday morning or Friday, MMPI spokeswoman Sophia Weiss said. County commissioners are expected to approve the document at their meeting next week.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cuyahoga County commissioners have released a development agreement (pdf) for Cleveland’s medical mart and convention center – a critical step in pushing ahead on the long-awaited project.

Officials from Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., which would run the facility, will likely sign the agreement Thursday or Friday, MMPI spokeswoman Sophia Weiss said. The company won’t discuss the pact they sign it, Weiss said.

County commissioners are expected to approve the document at their meeting next week.

The signatures will finally signal a major step forward in the discussions to develop the medical mart, which hopes to be a destination resource for medical goods and health-care conventions.

Its release is also an important step in openness. The release of the document a week ahead of its approval comes only after negotiations and the threat of lawsuit by The Plain Dealer – a symbol of the public frustration with a process many have seen as too private despite the hundreds of millions in public tax dollars set aside to fund the project.

Some public officials, though, have complained of excessive and lascivious scrutiny on the project, which is essentially the lone massive economic development project left in the city as the economy has forced others to shut down.

The next major hurdle after the development agreement is land acquisition. The City of Cleveland owns the bulk of the land planned for the medical mart and convention center. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has pledged to get a fair price.