By Kevin Kelley
If this real estate development thing doesn’t work out for Andrew Brickman, maybe he can get a job at Comedy Central.
Peppered with questions and concerns from Fairview Park residents Monday night about his planned office building at the site of the Mandley-Vetrovsky Funeral Home, Brickman responded with both serious answers and quips reminiscent of the dry humor of stand-up comic Steven Wright.
Asked what would happen if the city ultimately failed to approve his plans for the property he has acquired, Brickman replied, “Maybe I have to get into the funeral business.”
When a woman told Brickman she wouldn’t be voting for the rezoning measure required for his project to go forward, the developer replied, “At least don’t vote against it.”
And when another resident expressed concerns that the planned office building would bring excess traffic that would lead to accidents, Brickman quipped, “It’s a good thing they built that new emergency room right across the bridge.” The reference was to Fairview Hospital’s new, recently opened emergency department.
Unfortunately, City Council chambers lacked a drum set for rimshots to be played following Brickman’s jokes during the public hearing on the rezoning issue.
Fairview Park voters will have, if not the last laugh, then at least the last say on Brickman’s project. They will be asked in November to rezone three parcels of land at the eastern end of Lorain Road for the proposed office building.
Legislation placing the measure before voters was approved by City Council at a special meeting Monday night. The ballot issue will rezone the properties from multi-family garden to the office building 3 zoning category. That category allows for buildings up to 35 feet in height, or about three floors. Brickman said current plans call for the building to consist of 60,000 square feet of office space. The developer said the exact height of the proposed building is uncertain.
Brickman previously planned to build luxury condominiums at the funeral home. But he has since entered into negotiations with an unnamed entity to build an office building there.
At a June 19 meeting of the city’s Planning and Design Commission, Brickman explained that it will be easier to sell the property to one buyer than to sell 30 townhouses.
Asked specifically if the planned structure would be a medical office building, Brickman said a confidentiality agreement prevented him from saying anything about his potential client.
But later at the meeting, comments by commission member Chet Sadonick appeared to indicate that it would be a medical office building.
“I look at 10,000 people a day turning 65 in this country, and the need for medical care is going to be tremendous,” Sadonick said. “And it just seems to me that this is the proper use of the land as the hospital moves both ways, east and west. I would encourage them to come across the bridge because it does generate the revenue.”
Brickman told the commission that he can build the office building without having to seek a modification of an easement from the adjacent Cleveland Metroparks. Brickman had obtained the modification for the condominium project but was told by Metroparks officials that the modification applied only to that project and not an office building plan.
At both the Planning and Design Commission meeting and Monday night’s public hearing, several residents criticized the project. Erosion into the Rocky River Valley, the loss of trees and increased traffic were among the concerns expressed.
Brickman said engineering tests have already been done and that the building will be constructed in a safe manner. Construction workers will not remove any more trees than necessary, the developer said. And Brickman promised to look into conducting a traffic study at the intersection of Story and Lorain roads, although he said he wasn’t sure such a study is required.
Mayor Eileen Patton, who for years has lived not far from the intersection in question, said she has not seen any accidents there but will have the police department check its records.
Councilmen Brian McDonough and Pete Matia both argued that the office building project deserves support due to the tax revenue it promises to bring to the city. Patton concurred, saying, “We’re in tough economic times.”
Brickman added that the office building will also bring income tax revenue of around 200 new workers.
WORDS EXCHANGED: Following the public hearing on the Brickman project, council President Mike Kilbane apparently said something, perhaps under his breath, as he walked past the mayor. Kilbane later declined to say what he said, and no one else that West Life spoke to heard the comment.
But Patton heard the comment and didn’t like it.
“Who do you think you are, shooting your mouth off like that?” Patton asked. She followed Kilbane into the council meeting room, where words apparently continued to be exchanged. What Kilbane said could not be heard from outside the meeting room.
“You better clean up your act, Kilbane,” Patton yelled as she walked away from the room.
Medical issues could have been trying the patience of both Monday night. The mayor was recovering from a painful skin condition. The council president had a foot in an orthopedic boot; he said the foot was fractured and has been giving him trouble for some time.
Ironically, when a planned council committee meeting began following the exchange of words, council members heard from a representative of the Cleveland Mediation Center there to promote its services.
Patton and Kilbane clashed last year over the council president’s backing of a “responsible bidder” ordinance, which Patton vetoed, that would have required municipal contractors to provide additional documentation proving they were in compliance with the law. At one point during the debate over the issue, Kilbane publicly apologized to the mayor after he said a municipal contractor had done work at Patton’s house when it had not.