Joint Facilities Task Force, June 20, 2019

July 5th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Members Present: Shaker City: David Weiss, Tres Roeder, Anne Williams; Shaker Schools: Scott Stephens, Jeff Isaacs; Shaker Library: Amy Switzer, Brian Gleisser; citizen members: Jim Neville, Stephanie Ryberg-Webster, Vicki Elder

Members Absent: Michael Bertsch, David Glasner, Lisa Cremer

Others Present: Joyce Braverman, Alex Nichols, Earl Williams, Ann Klavora, Cameron Roberts, Sara Schiavoni

Mayor Weiss opened the meeting at 2:10 p.m. with an introduction of the new citizen members of the task force, Jim Neville, Stephanie Ryberg-Webster and Vicki Elder. He briefly reviewed the agenda and the expectations for the meeting.

City Planning Director Joyce Braverman reviewed the actions being taken by the city in support of the task force, especially the city’s efforts to consolidate city functions and personnel into the City Hall space and freeing the space used in the STJ Community Building. A detailed analysis of the Thornton Park ice rink was in process by the Recreation Department. The Warrensville connection path project had begun and Shaker Lakes Dams were ongoing priorities.

Library Director Amy Switzer reviewed progress on the Main Library upgrade project; the architect will be reaching out to the community with a meeting and surveys this summer, the design will consume the remainder of 2019 and work will begin in 2020. Library Board Chairman Brian Gleisser shared that the Certificates of Participation had been offered and the full $10.4 million of financing for the main building would be available by the end of June.

Shaker Schools Executive Director of Communications and Public Relations Scott Stephens reiterated that the school district’s top priorities: maintaining facilities “warm, safe and dry” and practicing equity in education. He said it would require $190 million to bring all facilities up to all state standards: $10 million will be spent toward that effort this summer, with additional money going toward the Fernway reconstruction; Fernway will reopen in the fall of 2020. The Woodbury and Middle School indoor swimming pools are a challenge; in fact, the Woodbury pool is presently out of commission. The Shaker School’s transportation depot and IT office building on Lee Road are part of the discussions with the city regarding the Lee Road corridor development.

Ms. Switzer next opened a discussion on how to communicate ongoing updates among the task force members, suggesting there might be joint board meetings. Ms. Elder suggested two levels of communication might be important, one between the task force members and their assigned staff support and another between the task force members and the administrations and boards of the three governing bodies. Ms. Braverman said the task force will meet monthly and the task force members could report separately to their boards. Mayor Weiss said that he and Ms. Switzer have had informal chats in the past. Ms. Elder said all interactions should be shared with everyone on the task force in order to preserve a history.

Principal City Planner Ann Klavora introduced the purpose of a “group exercise”: The task force members would be asked to provide their personal input on the 12 “Big Ideas” and to indicate their top three “Big Ideas.” They would likewise be asked for their personal feedback on the vision and goals statements. She shared a summary of the “Forward Together” public workshops and priority open house results: 425 people had taken personal time to attend these activities, and had shared 2,850 specific comments and ideas about joint use facilities, a remarkable response for a city our size, according to the consultants.

These comments had resolved to seven common themes:

  • 26% New facility type/use/amenity
  • 20% Utilization/access
  • 18% Programming
  • 15% Physical Connectivity
  • 12% Maintenance/Operations
  • 7% Collaboration
  • 3% Economic Development

with a single vision: Shaker Heights will lead in providing community facilities that are … modern and innovative while respecting historic character; inclusive and accessible to all people; adaptable and multifunctional; efficient with respect to costs and the environment and; collaborative in the broadest sense.

And four goals: Facilities where the community can Gather and Connect and that are Utilized to their full potential. And very important: the governing bodies commit to Collaborate continuously in the best interests of the community.

The public workshops and online responses had been refined to 12 “Big Ideas”:

  1. Explore the potential for creating a central recreation and community center.
  2. Create a community asset trail map.
  3. Expand inventory and access to community meeting spaces.
  4. Create more multigenerational programming.
  5. Explore the need for additional athletic field space within the community.
  6. Invest in Shaker Lakes.
  7. Study opportunities for community use of school facilities.
  8. Explore opportunities for the joint funding of facilities.
  9. Develop a facilities strategy plan for Lee Road.
  10. Create a community-wide joint calendar of events.
  11. Create a mechanism to regularly communicate and collaborate across the City, Schools and Library.
  12. Explore opportunities to better connect residents through technology infrastructure.

With that summary complete, Ms. Klavora requested all the task force members use the white boards placed around the room to complete their group exercise. Each task force member could choose only three “Big Ideas” (39 votes total).

Planning Director Joyce Braverman presented the “Big Ideas” priorities results to date, including those received online and during the June 12 Priorities Open House at the STJ Community Center. Seventy-two percent ranked the need for a central recreation and community center as the top priority, followed by a Lee Road facilities strategy plan and investment in the Shaker Lakes.

The task force members then reviewed their personal priority-setting results from the previous exercise: only Big Ideas #1 and #8 received more than four priority votes; Big Ideas #6, #7, #9 and #11 received four priority votes each; the other six Big Ideas received between 0 and 3 priority votes. Ms. Braverman asked the task force, regarding the top priority, if a single central facility was envisioned or there might be multiple facilities. A lively discussion ensued. Ms. Elder said the Main Library area is a central community hub already and worried that several locations would divide the community rather than bring it together. Mayor Weiss said the Middle School area contained two facilities and a lot of open space, while the Colonnade area adjacent to the Main Library had multiple facilities and a lot of open space as well. Ms. Ryberg-Webster mentioned the Thornton Park area, which might also be considered “central” and has multiple facilities. Mr. Isaacs reminded the group that the school (and library) district and city boundaries are not the same; many Shaker Square residents consider themselves part of the community although they live outside the city limits. Mr. Weiss said the Lee/Chagrin corridor is getting a lot of community attention and wondered if a special $1 RTA fare would attract Shaker Square residents to the city. He felt the task force also needs to consider the educational facilities strategy and how this might be impacted. Mr. Gleisser said the Main Library renovation and the library’s near-term use of the STJ Community Building were examples of coordination between the city and library, but he felt the Colonnade “park” was an orphan among these near-term plans. He added that he considered the largest Shaker schools (high school/Woodbury/Onaway) campus might be part of a multiple-facility central recreation and community center along Lee Road from South Woodland to Scottsdale; all students attend Shaker Heights High School and it is a very walkable area. Ms. Elder felt it was advisable to consider the immediate plans for the Main Library.

Ms. Braverman challenged the task force members to come prepared for the July 18 meeting, which is to be critical to “wrap up” a joint facilities vision and decide on some “quick wins” to maintain momentum. Mr. Isaacs asked what should happen before the July 18 meeting. Mayor Weiss suggested that each government body should decide its near-term projects and have them compiled for the July meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 3:45 p.m.

Frank Goforth, observer

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