Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ameritrust Tower Saga Continues...

The Ameritrust Tower has been a permanent fixture of downtown Cleveland's skyline since it was built in 1971. The 29-story sat empty for years after the building's main occupant, Ameritrust Bank (originally the hometown Cleveland Trust) was bought out by (then) Society Bank (now Key Bank).

In 2005, the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners purchased the tower for $29 million in taxpayers' money. The Commissioners (Peter Lawson Jones, Tim Hagan, and Jimmy Dimora) purchased the building with the intention of constructing a Cuyahoga County Taj Mahal of county offices, which all 3 of them would surely directly benefit from.

The Commissioners than had the audacity to approve another $33 million in county funds to be used to demolish the Ameritrust Tower and construct their precious county palace. But the plan soon became controversial and the Commissioners, ever mindful of public opinion, decided it would be in their self-interest to scrap their waste of taxpayer dollars and sell the property to a private developer.

As they shopped for a possible developer, it quickly became evident that only one developer would truly be interested. K&D, a locally-based developer, offered to turn the Ameritrust Tower into a mix-use property of a hotel, shopping, and restaurants.

But now the Commissioners voted to reject K&D's bid for the property. K&D was only willing to pay $20 million up front and then secure the other $15 million through a loan. But with banks unwilling to loan out millions of dollars amid the still-developing subprime mortgage crisis, K&D's loan fell up short in the eyes of Hagan, Dimora, and Jones.

And despite wasting so much time, money, energy, and effort on this ridiculous idea of consolidating county offices for no apparent reason, the Commissioners are still demanding $35 million for the property. Why? To make up for the $8.8 million in taxpayer money they've already wasted, of course!

This debacle over the fate of the Ameritrust Tower illustrates the consequences of one-party rule anywhere. Fearing no repercussions at the ballot box, the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners arrogantly decided to waste public money on a project that would provide with cushy and modern office space.

Hopefully Cuyahoga County voters punish Tim Hagan for his hands-on complicity with this project this November and elect Bay Village Mayor Debbie Sutherland as their next Commissioner.

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