Cleveland spent $6.6 million to lease back Justice Center Police HQ

By Paul Rochford, Cleveland Documenters

After more than three years, the City of Cleveland has paid Cuyahoga County $6,623,776 for use of the current Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) headquarters at the Justice Center downtown – a space the city sold to the county for $9.25 million in October 2018.

This $6.6 million figure represents the amount Cleveland paid the county for rent, parking, and utilities from October 2018 to September 2021, according to public records Documenters got from the city.

Currently, the city is in its third renewal of what was supposed to be a year-long lease. The current lease, set to run from October 2021 to October 2022, is estimated to cost the city $2,108,652 if CDP remains in its current home at the Justice Center.

The amount spent on leasing back the HQ space at the Justice Center could total $8,732,428 by October 2022. If the lease is extended under similar terms, it would surpass the amount the county paid the city for the space.

Cleveland Documenter Daniel McCarthy took notes at a Finance Committee meeting on Oct. 18, 2021, where City Council members shared their frustration with the situation as the 2021-22 lease renewal was discussed.

During the meeting, Council Member Brian Kazy said, “I think the city’s getting bamboozled…by the end of this lease, we’ve almost zeroed it with nowhere to go.”

When the city made the 2018 sale to Cuyahoga County, it expected to move CDP HQ into 1801 Superior Ave., the former home of the Plain Dealer, by spring 2019, but the city pulled out of the deal in fall 2018 and eventually gave up on buying the property.

The rent amount per square foot of space increased each time the lease was renewed. Starting at “no more than $10/sq. ft.” in 2018, the current lease’s rate is $16/sq. ft.

The initial agreement in 2018 projected that the city would reduce the amount of space CDP used as the renovated areas of the new HQ were completed, but because the purchase of 1801 Superior Ave. fell through, this transition never happened.

All agreements were passed by Cleveland City Council as emergency ordinances.

CDP now has plans for a brand-new HQ building at the intersection of E. 75th and Opportunity Corridor. The city broke ground in December 2021, but construction is not expected to be complete until 2026. The new project is expected to cost $107.5 million.

Cleveland Documenters asked city officials if there were plans to renew the lease at the Justice Center after October 2022, but have not yet received a response.