Clifton Cultural Arts Center's home in limbo

Posted at 7:58 PM, Apr 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-04 11:42:05-04

The Clifton Cultural Arts Center may soon be without a home.

With signs pointing to a new school opening in the fall of 2017, it appears Cincinnati Public Schools will inform Clifton Town Meeting trustees its intent to terminate the Clifton Cultural Arts Center’s 30-year lease on the Clifton School building, effective this May. The lease, which was effective beginning in 2005 (the CCAC took occupancy of the building until September of 2008) was to last until 2035, with two 10-year automatic renewals built into the 30-year agreement. 

CPS and CCAC have been in the midst of other lease negotiations regarding the usage of CCAC classrooms by CPS for students from the Fairview-Clifton German Language School, located across the street from the building.

CCAC’s Executive Director Leslie Mooney said in a statement via email on Friday:

CCAC has not received an official letter of termination. At a meeting with Superintendent Mary Ronan on Thursday, March 24, CCAC learned that CPS is looking into the possibility of creating a neighborhood school for Clifton and CUF residents, and the only option CPS is exploring for housing that school would be the 1906 building where CCAC currently resides.

"Separately, Ms. Ronan told trustees of the Clifton Town Meeting that CPS would issue a survey to 530 families in Clifton and CUF in the next week or two, with results desired by end of April. When asked why the timeline was so rushed, the response from CPS was that if CPS was going to be opening a school in Fall 2017 in the CCAC building, they would need to give CCAC 365-days notice, which would necessitate the letter of termination being given to CCAC by May 2016.”

Cincinnati Public Schools Director of Public Affairs Janet Walsh responded on Monday via email regarding the situation.

Walsh confirmed that CPS is in the process of surveying families in the surrounding neighborhoods as it explores the the possibility of a new school to help relieve increasing enrollment demands in the Clifron area. She also stressed that no termination letter has been issued and CPS still hopes an agreement can be reached.

Walsh wrote:

"While there is a provision in the lease for CPS to take back the building from CCAC, with 365 days notice, if needed for classroom space, our district earlier this school year had been engaged in talks with CCAC about the possibility of a shared space agreement that would support both the educational needs of families and arts center activities. To be clear, no termination letter has been issued. We understand the value that Clifton and CUF residents hold both for quality educational options and the arts. Ideally, an agreement could still be reached out that meets families' need for additional educational space, permits CCAC to share the space, and does so in a way that is responsive to our responsibility to wisely manage taxpayer resources."

Clifton Town Meeting Vice President 1, Malcolm Montgomery, could not provide official comment on behalf of the CTM board. Montgomery did corroborate Mooney’s statement that the indication from CPS at the March 24 meeting was that the CCAC’s lease would indeed be terminated this May.

“(CPS) told us the reason for the rush (on the surveys to be issued to Clifton and CUF families) was to have the 365 days notice plus the summer to get ready for classes in the following fall of 2017,” Montgomery said.

The Clifton Town Meeting board will hold its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, April 4, at 320 McAlpin Ave. The public is invited.

Montgomery said, “There will be a number of items of business the board has to deal with.This will be one of them and will get the most time, and we want to hear from as many residents as we can what their views are.”