Cuyahoga County Commissioners Tuesday were briefed on an updated design of the proposed Medical Mart and Convention Center - one that included a higher price than previously projected.
ideastream's Rick Jackson reports.
The surprising revelation is that the project could now come in at nearly 40 million dollars over-budget, after repeated assertions throughout the last year that it was holding fast at the projected 425 million dollars.
Jeff Appelbaum is the county's lead attorney on the project, and explained to commissioners in great detail the recent architectural and design changes to the planned structure - taller prime spaces, better amenities, increased access, more windows, deeper excavation.
"What we have done since August - we have really honed in on the treatment of all those spaces, because it is tremendously important that those be high quality spaces; that pro grammatically they meet all of our needs for first class facility space."
Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, who has been largely silent in his job since being indicted on corruption charges two weeks ago, has supported the medical mart from the start. He spoke up to say the project is important to county's tourism industry and its' growth.
"This facility is trying to get us a niche in the market. If we don't do something like this, we will continue to have "nothing" with regard to this market area, or this industry."
Developer MMPI revealed that 16 conventions have tentatively signed to come to Cleveland between the years 2013-2018, and that letters of intent are now signed for 80% of the adjacent Med Marts' display space.
To cover the 40 million-dollar price increase, Commissioners say they'll use a previously undisclosed contingency fund - common to all large construction projects. And, they say, MMPI is putting money up front that will reduce that increase by nearly 9 million dollars.
Commissioners Hagan and Dimora each leveled a tirade against the Plain dealer, whose article Tuesday, they said, implied they were purposely hiding the contingency fund, or that sweetheart deals were diverting additional funds to the developers.
Commission President Peter Lawson Jones defended the fund and its purpose.
"The money is there to pay for this expansion, so this is not requiring any additional money from the public, and yet you're still getting the quality and kind of facility that's going to attract top rate conventions, conventioneers, and those who wish to be vendors in our Medical Mart, to our community."
The commissioners accepted the MMPI report, and still hope to break ground in late October.