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Government and Politics

Cuyahoga County reaches $27 million deal with developer for Ameritrust
Complex will become apartments, retail and new county adminisration building if council approves deal

Kevin Niedermier
This part of the Ameritrust complex could become the new Cuyahoga County administration building if council approves a deal to sell the complex.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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The future of Cuyahoga County’s controversial Ameritrust Complex is now clearer. The county has announced a deal to sell it to a developer who plans to convert part of it into apartments, and another part into a new county administration building. As WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports, the deal is one of several the county will be announcing. 

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The Ameritrust Complex, with its 104-year-old rotunda and more modern office tower, was always supposed to be the county’s new administration building. The old county government bought it in 2005 for $22-million, then spent another $20-million on it, but it was never used.  Last summer the county put the facility up for sale along with 12 other excess properties including the administration building.County Executive Ed FitzGerald says the county struck a deal to sell the Ameritrust complex to the Gies Companies for $27-million. The deal includes Gies tearing down part of the complex and building a new 8 story administration building. That project at the corner of East Ninth and Prospect is expected to be finished in July, 2014. The county will lease the building for six-point-six million dollars a year for 26-years.  From the cavernous rotunda, FitzGerald says the lease rate is about half of the county’s annually cost for the 13 buildings being sold, most of which will be consolidated into the new administration building.

The county will save money leasing its administration building

“It’s the best of both worlds, we get to lease and the operations of the facility fall on the developer, but at the end of the lease the county will own the building. So at the end we’ll be turning over to taxpayers a building that’s free and clear that we own that has additional value.”

FitzGerald says the county is still discussing with Geis what will be done with the rotunda. He says it will probably be open to the public as retail space and maybe a restaurant. But, the 28-story office tower will be converted into high-end apartments….

“And the timing for that couldn’t be better because the occupancy rate downtown is nearly 100 percent, so there’s a huge market for housing.  It’ll bring more and more people downtown.”

Geis deal adds to downtown revitalization

A priority for buying one of the county buildings is that there’s a plan to incorporate the redevelopment into the revitalization now underway downtown. FitzGerald says there were 3 serious bids for the Ameritrust complex, but the 2 other offers were only $18-million and $16-milliion dollars. The Ameritrust deal must first be approved by Cuyahoga County Council. Councilman Micheal Gallagher has been following the bidding and heard FitzGerald’s presentation. He says on the surface the deal sounds like the best of both worlds.

County council must still approve deal

“I went to Cleveland State in the 1970s, and to be part of what’s going on downtown, I wish I was 40-years younger. It’s a revitalization of East 9th and Euclid, the center and heart of Cleveland. It brings 750 employees to the heart of the business district.”

The Ameritrust deal was presented to council last night for the first of 3 readings.  A decision is expected by late January.  Deals on the 12 other buildings being sold are expected in the coming weeks.                                    
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