Thanks to a collaborative effort between residents, City Council, and his administration, University Heights Mayor Michael Brennan reported on Tuesday that “University Heights is back on the map.”
Brennan began his second State of the City address by relaying a discussion he had with resident Ari Jaffe prior to the 2017 election. Jaffe asked Brennan if he was considering merging University Heights with a neighboring city. Paraphrasing his conversation from memory, Brennan said Jaffe felt then that University Heights was “adrift, without direction, without purpose, without identity.”
But in just two years, there’s a new energy in University Heights.
Brennan told Jaffe that it was a team effort. “I didn’t do it alone,” Brennan said. “We did it, working together – the mayor’s office, City Council, the good men and women who come to work every day for our city. Citizens like him (Jaffe) who step up and serve our community. And the residents who expect good things, and deserve good things.”
Brennan said the state of University Heights is strong, and growing stronger. “We have found our identity, we are back on the map, and we’re building something special here in University Heights,” he said.
From the Jardine Room on the campus of John Carroll University, Brennan reported construction is set to begin in 2020 on redevelopment at University Square, new infill housing, and new townhomes.
Phase I of the University Square rebuild will include approximately 203 market rate apartments, and 5,000 square feet of new retail, some of which might be live/work space. “As Phase I is completed,” Brennan said, “we will work together on Phase II, and for what is worthy of this high-profile center of our community.”
Brennan praised City Council, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District, and county officials for working together with the original bond holders and Kowit & Company Real Estate Group on the project.
Brennan credited the City Beautiful CIC for coming to terms with Knez Builders to construct three infill homes on vacant lots in the city. The homes will have architectural characteristics consistent with current homes in University Heights, but with modern construction, open floor plans, and today’s amenities.
Turning to townhomes, Brennan said the development on the north end of Cedar-Taylor will be marketed towards young professionals and empty nesters. The new town homes will include luxury finishes and rooftop views of downtown Cleveland.
Brennan said his administration is working on building a sense of community in University Heights, with new events such as Fall Fest, the City Beautiful 5K, revamped events such as the Summer Concert Series and Civic Awards, as well as the city’s Memorial Day parade. “Our city is and ought to be a community of neighbors,” Brennan said. “Neighbors who interact, socialize, and have fun together.”
Brennan praised the city’s Police and Fire Departments. “In their first full calendar year in their respective positions, Chief Dustin Rogers and Chief Robert Perko built upon their departments past successes, and are well positioned to continue to do the hard and important work to protect the safety of everyone in University Heights – not just those who live here, but those who work here, go to school here, and those who shop and visit,” Brennan said.
Brennan also congratulated Building Commissioner James McReynolds on his upcoming retirement, and Housing and Community Development Director Patrick Grogan-Myers on accepting a new position with the city of Maple Heights. Brennan praised both men for their hard work and dedicated service to the residents of University Heights.
Under Finance Director Dennis Kennedy, Brennan said the city has revised both its investment and reserve policy. “One of the reasons we brought in an expert like Dennis Kennedy,” Brennan said, “was to have a sure hand to show us the way financially and make good long-term decisions.”
Brennan concluded by contrasting University Heights with what’s happening in Washington. “I don’t have to tell you, this country is tearing itself apart,” he said. “We have seen our national office holders put the coarse in discourse.”
Brennan vowed that University Heights will remain different. “I resolve to continue to be the change I want to see in our country – positive, progressive, responsive, sensitive, open, and strong,” he said. “I could not be prouder to hold the honor of being your mayor and leading this city, and all it represents.
“University Heights is truly ‘So Much More Than Home.’ And we’re telling the world, we are back on the map.”