Perspective: FitzGerald, Jackson unite for grand plan

1:05 PM, Jun 6, 2013   |    comments
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There's been lots of discussion in political circles about the personalities of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.

Many still  perceive Jackson as a methodical manager who favors a deliberate, sometimes too-slow approach.

And many think FitzGerald is an arms-length guy that other politicians and officeholders have a hard time personally connecting with.

But none of that was in evidence Wednesday when the tag team of FitzGerald and Jackson rolled out a bold $350 million downtown development plan, embracing multiple projects that would keep the city's building boom and positive momentum going.

FitzGerald is getting top billing in the stories about this. Cuyahoga County is going to be the developer for the city's biggest hotel.

The planned 20-story, 600-plus room flagship hotel would go where the Cuyahoga County Administration Building is now.

It would connect to the about-to-open Convention/Global Health Innovation Centers.

Many thought such a hotel should have been part of the original plan. It will give the city a legitimate chance to bid for a political conventions if it chooses to.

A long-discussed pedestrian bridge connecting to the lakefront is also in the mix.

The city just went out to developers seeking proposals for lakefront projects. Hopefully, the bridge will encourage interest and ideas.

A link between downtown and the Cleveland Lakefront was  part of many Lakefront plans that died on the drawing board.

Voters didn't want to pay for the bridge as part of a Port of Cleveland levy.

But now the city, county and port have just applied for a federal grant and seem confident of getting it.

The plan also includes a makeover of Public Square and tying more people-friendly Mall and park green spaces together.

The private sector will have to deliver funding for that.

With the Convention Center, Inner Belt Bridge and Flats East Bank all getting ready to come online, the challenge was to come up with new activity to keep the city's momentum going.

And the best part of this? No new taxes are involved.

A mix of savings from the Convention Center, extra sales and hotel tax dollars, bonds  backed by hotel income and other sources have this on sound financial footing.

Jackson and FitzGerald are both facing campaigns. And appropriately both reminded us this plan will also create lots of jobs.

This is the biggest cooperative city and county initiative rolled out on both men's watch. And both pledge these are not pipe dreams or pie-in-the-sky, but things that will happen.

When FitzGerald was elected, some wondered whether he would eventually become the region's perceived leader.  He won't be in the job long enough to do that.

But to those who were concerned  Jackson's and FitzGerald's personalities might keep them from doing something big together, don't be.


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