After more than a year of back-and-forth, the relationship between the Clifton Cultural Arts Center (CCAC) and the Cincinnati School Board is finally coming to a head. The board is voting Monday night to terminate the CCAC's 30-year lease on its Clifton building.
"It's a disappointment," says CCAC Director Leslie Mooney. "At this point we are certainly committed and focused on getting back the millions of dollars that have been invested in this building."
Superintendent Mary Ronan says the district plans to meet with CCAC board members Tuesday to discuss a possible arts campus that would involve the Rawson estate, which borders the Clifton school property.
Mooney says she doesn't have any details about the Rawson property but, in general, it is much smaller than what the CCAC's needs.
"We will certainly be looking to move on and start in a new location with the values of connecting diverse communities through the arts and educating public school children and others in 21st century skills," says Mooney.
The CCAC will have 365 days to vacate the property.
"Currently scheduled programs will continue here for at least the next year," Mooney says. "But as we start to look forward toward to the transition, we will be looking to volunteers throughout the community to assist with site selection, program planning, community engagement, fundraising, and a whole host of other opportunities for people to become involved in moving forward with us."
The school district says it needs the building, which had been previously deemed by the state to be functionally obsolete, to meet the neighborhood's need for a school.
"The Ohio School Facilities Commission made us downsize, build fewer schools, based on their erroneous assumptions," says Ronan. "Their demographers were just terribly off base. They had said we'd be at 29,000 students and we're getting ready to hit 36,000, and lots of new families moving in."
Ronan adds that when the district closed schools, it was required to sell off those buildings within 24 months, first offering them to charter schools. The district sold 20 buildings. It recently announced it is reopening neighborhood schools in its old buildings in North Fairmount, Carthage, and now Clifton.
"These are the last three great old school buildings we have," says Ronan.
Cincinnati Public Schools will be required to reimburse the CCAC for any capital improvements it has made such as a new elevator the center had installed. The CCAC has said that amount could be around $2 million. Ronan says she hasn't seen the CCAC's list, but the reimbursement money will come out of the district's general fund.
"To build a new school would cost us about $14 million, so $2 million is significantly less and we can use our in-house crafts people to get the building into shape," says Ronan. "And honestly, I don't know where we'd get property in Clifton to actually build a school, or in CUF (Clifton Heights, University Heights, & Fairview). So, actually, this might be the most financially conservative and reasonable thing to do."