As mayor of Shaker Heights, I am honored to be entrusted with the stewardship of this historic city. Our close-knit community, active and engaged residents, beautiful parks and remarkable architecture make it a privilege to work and live here.
I also feel an enormous responsibility to position Shaker Heights for a strong and vibrant future. As such, I have made economic development and sustainability among my top priorities. Creating a broad and deep tax base, and continuing to attract and retain residents who can live, work and spend their leisure time in the city is of utmost importance.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we have continued to make progress on key economic development initiatives that will benefit our community for decades to come.
First, I am pleased to share that RMS, the Shaker Heights-based developer and owner of the Van Aken District, is matching its initial $100 million investment in Shaker Heights with a new apartment building at the corner of Van Aken Boulevard and Farnsleigh Road. Currently in the concept design phase, the proposed development includes 229 apartments in two glass towers connected by two enclosed bridges.
The buildings will be surrounded by green space and have views to downtown and Lake Erie. Just like the now-iconic, Gropius-designed Tower East office building on Chagrin Boulevard, we see this building as an opportunity to showcase the best in design and contribute to modernizing our historic city. Additionally, the project will add to the diversity of the city’s housing stock so Shaker Heights is a place where people at every age and stage of life can find a place to call home.
The proposed development will provide an important economic boost for the city, generating new property and income tax revenues. And, increased residential density will greatly benefit the shops and restaurants in the Van Aken District. Based on the positive effects of the initial Van Aken District development, we expect this second phase will spur further development in the surrounding area and boost home sales in adjacent neighborhoods.
The city is also focusing on the redevelopment of the Lee Road commercial corridor. While we are in the earliest stages of securing grants for a strategic plan, we are building on the successes of The Dealership, a co-working community, which is home to Verb Ballets, and several other businesses on Lee Road, some of which have recently expanded. These include Process Canine, a dog daycare, training and boarding facility; Shaker Heights Animal Hospital, which outgrew its original home on Lee Road and purchased a larger building a few doors away; and CarTeCor Kitchens and Baths, which opened a new showroom in an adjacent building. We look forward to further redevelopment and anticipate that it will help to fuel our infill housing goals in the adjacent neighborhoods.
In addition to economic development, sustainability is a top priority. I’ve worked closely with staff, city council, and our sustainability committee to evaluate how the city can become more sustainable in everything it does. I am proud to say there are now five EV charging stations, all powered by 100% renewable electric, at locations throughout the city, including city hall and near transit and commercial hubs, making charging equitable and accessible. We just purchased the city’s first electric vehicle for use by the recreation department.
Our renewable energy subcommittee has been instrumental in promoting the installation of solar, even on historic homes. We are seeing impressive gains in the number of homes now using solar. And, the newly adopted 100 percent renewable electricity program for city buildings and streetlights is reducing costs as compared to its previous, non-renewable plan.
Thanks to our work with Rust Belt Riders, composting is gaining traction throughout the City. We have a composting program at some of our municipal buildings and were selected by Rust Belt Riders as the first community in which to roll out a residential composting program.
Finally, the city is on track to earn its LEED for Cities and Communities certification this year. This designation by the U.S. Green Building Council means we have met strict requirements across multiple sustainability categories.
There are so many interesting initiatives going on in Shaker Heights as we look toward a future that is as vibrant as the present. As the weather warms up, we invite you to explore Shaker Heights. Our miles of sidewalks, many parks and busy commercial districts make it easy to enjoy our city today and for decades to come.
David E. Weiss is mayor of Shaker Heights.