Coventry PEACE Campus reaches agreement with Heights Library on new lease

Coventry PEACE Campus reaches agreement with Heights Library on new lease

--by Frank W. Lewis

Coventry PEACE Inc. is pleased to announce that it has reached an agreement with Heights Library and signed a 15-month lease on the former Coventry school building, which has been home to arts and community service non-profits for more than a decade. This agreement includes a path towards a 99-year lease and allows Coventry PEACE Inc. to sub-let spaces to other non-profits and build upon an arts, culture and education mission.

Coventry PEACE Inc. is an independent organization whose mission is to create and maintain a robust arts and culture center by supporting the tenants through affordable rent and special programming. The current tenants that CPC represents are: Ensemble Theatre, ARTFUL, Lake Erie Ink, FutureHeights, Reaching Heights, Cleveland Heights Teachers Union and Cleveland Arts Prize-winning artist Robin VanLear. Coventry PEACE Inc. was founded by community residents in the 1990s to build and maintain the PEACE Playground, and in 2017 its mission was expanded to pursue the vision of an integrated campus where everyone can “create, show, learn and grow.”

In 2017 when the Library purchased the six-acre property and building for $1, Coventry PEACE began developing a path forward for the project, one that neither the Library nor the City of Cleveland Heights subsidize. The tenants have continued to pay rent, despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, and CPC has been meeting with outside advisors, like the Cleveland Foundation, to lay the groundwork for launching a multi-faceted fundraising campaign. By evolving the Coventry PEACE, Inc., mission, the organization will have the capacity to build a unique arts, education, recreation and community service hub that is even greater than the sum of its parts. The anchor tenants, Ensemble Theatre and ARTFUL, will lead this effort.

“As citizens, we have a responsibility to do what we think is right,” said Ian Hinz, treasurer of Coventry PEACE Inc. “This gives us an opportunity to contribute even more to the vitality of the Coventry neighborhood, the business district, and to the rest of the city.”

“This agreement is a statement on the times,” added Brady Dindia, ARTFUL board president and CPC board secretary. “Our governments and institutions aren’t able to step up right now, so it is up to organizations with good hearts and vision to do what they can.”

With the lease signing complete, CPC will now negotiate sub-leases with the current tenants, and begin recruiting new and complementary tenants who can help advance the CPC project. Rent rates will be kept as affordable as possible, to attract creative partner organizations. To do this while keeping up with the demands of the lease with the Library, CPC will raise funds separate from the tenants’ own fundraising efforts.

The terms of the lease are challenging. In addition to covering all of the costs of the building, CPC is expected to pay escalating rent over the next 10 years, while also funding all capital improvement. The Library, however, has stated it is willing to work on a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines ways in which they will invest CPC’s rent payments into improving the park and playground, which are solely the Library’s responsibility.

“As creatives and non-profits, we’re used to people doubting us,” said Dindia. “But we’ve overcome numerous obstacles to get this far, including trying to survive the pandemic. We’ve done our due diligence, and we believe in the viability and importance of this project.”

“We are not quitters,” added Hinz. “This site has been one of the most unique and special places in the region for more than 100 years, and the CPC vision is the foundation for the next 100 years.”