CLEVELAND - In the smile that is the East 9th Street corridor in Cleveland, there is a missing front tooth.
The Ameritrust complex has sat vacant since 1996, but under a plan unveiled Tuesday by Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, the block-long collection of buildings will see new life.
FitzGerald announced the county has a deal with Geis Companies to purchase the properties for $27 million. As part of the deal the 28-story Ameritrust Tower will be converted to high-end residential units, filling a need in downtown, where the occupancy rate FitzGerald said is already more than 95 percent.
The historic bank rotunda would be used for either retail or some other possible public use, and the current 190,00- square foot office building at East 9th and Prospect would be torn down with the developers building a brand new county administration building.
That building would consolidate county workers currently spread out over six other buildings. The county would lease the building for 25 years, after which they'll have the option to buy it for $1.
"We got all different kinds of proposals, ranked them all and this was the clear favorite," said FitzGerald, who added that the Geis proposal was $8.5 million higher than the next closest bid.
While it's not the $40 million the county had invested into the vast property since its acquisition in 2005, FitzGerald said the county was never going to recoup that much, saying previous county leadership overpaid for the property and "used a very flawed process" to come to the purchase amount.
"The conventional wisdom was the county was going to be lucky if they got over $10 million," he said.
"I mean to be at $27 million plus a new county administration building that we will pay less than what we do to maintain our current buildings now, is a real winner, " said FitzGerald pointing to what he said are $12.5 million in maintenance costs on multiple county buildings that will be reduced to $6.6 million once the new administration is complete.
FitzGerald said the county looked at a number of existing office buildings but decided the new construction fit best the county's needs while helping to build on momentum that is already started downtown.
The deal must be approved by Cuyahoga County Council, which FitzGerald expects to happen early in 2013, at which time demolition and construction work will begin with the county hoping to move into their new digs in July 2014.
"To be frank, we're extremely excited. This is a unique opportunity for Cleveland," said Downtown Cleveland Alliance President & CEO Joe Marinucci. "This corner has always been the center, the heartbeat of downtown and we're looking at $180 million investment here so we're extremely pleased by the outcome."
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