Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Med Mart free-for-all

Usually January's a good time for a Clevelander to take a vacation. But this year I'll be missing a week of Med Mart fun!

Everyone who's in local politics, or who follows it, has an opinion about the county choosing the Mall site for the Medical Mart and convention center. Roldo takes the occasion to tell Forest City to get out of town. Jill Miller Zimon gets mad about Tim Hagan's bad habit of telling citizens they don't need to express an opinion or ask for information because they've got an elected representative -- him!

Mayor Frank Jackson has an opinion too. He called all 21 city councilpeople into his office to tell them. Here's a letter he's put out about it. He's definitely questioning the premise that the Mall site is cheaper, and whether MMPI can really save $100+ million by building on the old convention center foundation. But note that he also says, "With this critical decision made...."

Here's the Greater Cleveland Partnership's reaction to the total rejection of its recommendation of Tower City as the site: "The MMPI numbers ... require intense scrutiny. ... MMPI and the county should ... work closely with Forest City to re-examine whether there are potential savings at the Riverfront site. ... The community ... can't afford going down a road that leads to a no-build scenario." Strong wording for a chamber of commerce press release. I wonder what they're saying behind the scenes?

Lots of people are pointing out the many questions still unanswered. Here are mine.

-Last year people were saying a new convention center on the Mall would have to expand beyond the current site. Will it still expand? In which direction, north or west? North would be the best answer -- toward the Rock Hall, to connect conventioneers with our biggest tourist attraction. West would mean knocking down the county administration building, so all the arguments about the Ameritrust Tower and the cost of moving the county government would start up again.

-Is there any money to build that spiffy pedestrian bridge over the Shoreway that people were talking about, to take convention-goers all the way to the Rock Hall and Science Center? Or did that get cut in the cost-cutting?

-When the Partnership and Forest City push back and try to undo the Mall decision, someone needs to ask two questions about the Tower City proposal. The plans the public saw were for a tall, thin convention center on the slope down to the river. The exhibit hall was a few stories up. How much would it cost to build a convention exhibit floor strong enough to host industrial conventions, if the floor is several stories above the ground? And how much would it really cost to build the big weird bridge you'd need to get dozens of trucks to the exhibit floor?

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