Nov 1, 2023 - News

Marion Seltzer construction on hold while Cudell legal battle continues

A historic clocktower in an urban park with mature trees over basketball courts

The northern side of Cudell Commons Park, with the clock tower and mature trees overlooking the basketball courts. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

The construction of a new Marion C. Seltzer elementary school at Cudell Commons Park will be delayed for at least a few more weeks.

Driving the news: After nearly four hours in Judge Nancy Margaret Russo's courtroom Tuesday, a hearing in the civil suit between Cudell neighbors and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and the city of Cleveland had not yet concluded.

  • Russo said she would extend a temporary restraining order halting the construction until it's finished.

Yes, but: The next portion of the hearing won't be until later this month.

  • Russo wants to give the city additional time to produce discovery — pre-trial evidence — about the 2021 land swap in which CMSD received portions of Cudell Commons Park and the city received two CMSD sites for future development.

Between the lines: Though formally a hearing, the proceedings Tuesday had all the trappings of a full trial — opening statements, questioning and cross-examination of witnesses, etc.

  • The single attorney representing the Cudell neighbors and the five representing CMSD and the city argued back and forth about which of two historical deeds governed the use of the land in question: a 1906 deed from Frank Cudell that allegedly restricts the use of the parkland or a 1935 deed from Emma Cudell, Frank's wife, which has no restrictions.

The intrigue: Judge Russo expressed sympathy with the neighbors throughout the hearing, suggesting it was presumptuous of the city to have orchestrated the land swap without community engagement and that the reimagined Cudell Commons Park would reduce the neighborhood's green space.

Of note: There was very little discussion about the loss of mature trees on the proposed site, the root of the neighbors' opposition. That will be covered when the hearing continues later this month.

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