Cleveland Cracks its Runway Riddle

Cleveland and its neighboring town of Brook Park are about to finalize a land swap that guarantees construction of new runways at Cleveland's international airport.
by | October 2001

Cleveland and its neighboring town of Brook Park are about to finalize a land swap that guarantees construction of new runways at Cleveland's international airport.

The deal lets Cleveland purchase and demolish 300 homes near the airport for two new runways and cites another 468 homes if a third runway is needed years from now. In exchange, affected homeowners are guaranteed better-than-market prices for their homes and other sweeteners.

The agreement comes at a time when cities across the country are struggling to acquire land to build runways at congested airports. Cleveland and Brook Park were deadlocked for years on the issue, which was tied to the fate of a giant convention center that sits in the path of the third proposed runway. As part of the agreement, Cleveland will own the convention center but guarantee Brook Park nearly $700,000 a year in revenue for 10 years. Cleveland will also pay Brook Park $6 million for other land near the airport and re-draw city boundaries to place a NASA research center and $2 million of income- tax revenues from its employees within Brook Park.

Brook Park voters approved the agreement in August, even though town council members opposed it, arguing that the revenues could fall short of what is being promised. Brook Park Mayor Tom Coyne, who negotiated the deal with Cleveland Mayor Michael White, countered that it would secure the town's fiscal stability while giving the airport room to grow in an orderly way. "Our citizens realized," Coyne says, "that the negative impacts of the airport are already there, and that it's better to have a willing buyer than play darts in the dark when they try to sell their homes."