Trash & Malls

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One of the main reasons my wife and I moved to Cleveland Heights was to enjoy living in a walkable city.  So, we walked to Severance Mall yesterday from our Coventry neighborhood home in the bright spring sunshine.  It was a beautiful day, the first really warm morning this April.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stroll till we got to the intersection of South Taylor Rd. and Euclid Heights Boulevard, an entrance to Severance I pass by often in my car.  I admit I am sensitive to and disgusted by litter.   But I was really shocked by the amount of litter that welcomed us to Severance, trash we easily ignore as we pass by in our cars.

There is a large wooded lot on Taylor Rd. just south of the mall entry that is filled with trash, and also appears to be the neighborhood or mall dumping ground for organic waste like dead trees and bushes, along with leaves and piles of yard waste that were intentionally dumped there.  It must be what mall developers like to call a “nature area”.  Slow down and check it out next time you drive by.  I stood there and thought about the old television commercial of the crying American Indian viewing what we’ve done to our environment.   Nice welcome to the mall, I thought.

Next, we walked toward the mall on the entry road through all the litter thrown up on the sidewalk by cars and snowplows.  I sure hope the city of Cleveland Heights or Severance Mall plans to run a sweeper along this walkway soon, because we’re 0 for 2 so far on the curb side appeal of this place.  Maybe the congregation of the New Song Church we passed by on this stretch of our walk will dispatch some folks with brooms and trash bags to tidy things up.  I gotta believe God would appreciate it.

Large shopping malls are not particularly pedestrian friendly places to venture to on foot.   Traffic planners focus on moving cars in and out and assume the vast majority of us will only become pedestrians after we park our car in the massive parking lot and make our way to the big box retailer we’ve come to visit.  But what we came across next really left me scratching my head.

As we reached the stop light to cross the road circling Severance by Home Depot, we discovered there was no sidewalk to reach on the other side!  You could go right, and head toward Kaiser Permanente on the sidewalk outside of the circle.  Or, you could go left and cross the entry road, then turn right to cross the circle, which leads to a sidewalk heading north toward Dave’s Market.  We were heading to Marshall’s and apparently you are on your own regarding sidewalks from where we stood.   I imagine whoever planned this littered mess would suggest we continue walking on the outer circle toward Kaiser, to the sidewalk provided that cuts back toward Marshall’s, which would add another ½ mile to our walk.  We opted to forge straight ahead with all the cars and made our way through the parking lot to reach our destination.

We made it to Marshall’s in spite of all these reasons to avoid coming here on foot, and experienced many things we might not have noticed in our car.  South Euclid residents and city planners are welcome to call me anytime for a personal walking tour of our Severance Mall environment.  Perhaps that may slow down their rush to duplicate this eyesore at Oakwood.


  1. says

    One difference between the owner of Severance and the developer who is proposing to build at Oakwood is precisely what you observed. Properties developed by First Interstate do tend to be well-maintained cared for from what I’ve seen. Severance, on the other hand, has been chronically under-maintained by its current owner. I suspect that’s one of the reasons why FIrst Interstate sees an opportunity at Oakwood; it could easily build an environment that’s superior to Severance in its design and upkeep. It would still be just another big-box strip plaza – but nice enough to lure tenants away from Severance. The result: blight at Severance, movement of commerce to Oakwood and no meaningful gain for those of us who live in the vicinity of both. It would be so much less expensive and less wasteful if the owners of Severance would have just been doing their job all along by running a top-notch property.

  2. bfw says

    “and no meaningful gain for those of us who live in the vicinity of both. It would be so much less expensive and less wasteful if the owners of Severance would have just been doing their job all along by running a top-notch property.”

    The meaningful gain is, as you pointed out, a cleaner place to shop.

    The motivation to run a top-notch property is that, if you don’t, someone else will do so nearby and “eat your lunch.” The other meaningful gain is that all local developers receive a harsh reminder of that principle and a wake-up call that being in a dense, heavily developed area is not necessarily immunity from competition.

  3. SUSAN MILLER says

    “why First Interstate sees an opportunity at Oakwood; it could easily build an environment that’s superior to Severance”

    Well, yes, the proverbial easy button. It’s easy to buy 62 acres for ~$2 million while it costs ~$2 million for 1 acre five blocks south (at Cedar Center). It’s easy to build on farm fields or golf courses. It’s easy to make your entrance via a city that’s feeling the pinch, whose residents haven’t had a history of strong oppositional advocacy. It’s easy to make the neighbor look ghetto by putting your new house next to their older one. It’s easy to make residents think that you don’t want any of their tax dollar assistance if you don’t mention that you already have $15 million of assistance for another project in the region.

    There’s a lot about this that’s easy for Schneider. It’s not easy for residents and taxpayers with little time to consider the longterm effects on their communities of cheap retail development, selling cheap goods, offering low wages.

    Just a point of reference – “the owners of Severance” is not quite accurate. You probably mean the management company – Pinetree Commercial Realty, LLC. In fact the owner of the land and buildings is quite a different story. From our own Law Director in response to who owns the Walmart at Severance? “I have obtained the tax map from the County and a copy of some of the deeds and lease agreements and I feel quite confident of the following although we would need the assistance of a title company to absolutely certain: the shopping center property is currently owned by Severance SPE FEECO, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company whose tax mailing address is c/o Syndicated Equities Company, 1345 North Wells Street, Chicago 60614. Walmart Real Estate Business Trust has a ground lease agreement with CJUF Severance LLC which presumably was assigned to Severance SPE. This means that Severance SPE owns the property beneath the Walmart store and Walmart constructed the building on the property.” It’s a little more complex. This is what lead Walmart to having its own realty company, for example. They’ve got plenty to unload. Check it out: Walmart is in the greyfield business apparently. Make ’em and sell ’em. Easy.

  4. says

    I hadn’t known about WalMart Realty; it’s actually encouraging for Severance that if WalMart relocates, it will proactively work to fill its space.
    The next question is what businesses often end up in space marketed by WalMart Realty?

  5. bfw says

    “There’s a lot about this that’s easy for Schneider. ”

    Yes, because the neighboring retail spaces have been made, competitively speaking, into low-hanging fruit by municipal government meddling. CH City Hall started interfering to the detriment of market-based sound business decisions at Severance back when Horne’s was still there, and S. Euclid has made a complete mess of Cedar Center.

  6. Sarah Wean says

    Wal-Mart is a fair weather friend and abandons their buildings regularly to move a short distance (2500 feet as the crow flies) away. I assume they are paying to build their new structure at Oakwood. Don’t expect them to fill their old space at Severance very quickly.

    “It has been a standard covenant in Wal-Mart Realty deals that their empty stores cannot be filled by retailers who compete with Wal-Mart. This restriction has forced many “ghost boxes” abandoned by Wal-Mart to remain empty.”

    “Wal-Mart has been sued by many landlords who failed to write into their lease that Wal-Mart had to continuously operate a retail store, or pay for their dead store to be demolished. ”

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