rhodes tower
Credit: Annie Gonyea
Cleveland State University is proposing an $86 million renovation plan to add student housing and a new grand entrance to Rhodes Tower, Signal Cleveland reported on April 17, 2024.

CSU transfers ownership of Rhodes Tower - Signal reports

Cleveland State University recently transferred ownership of Rhodes Tower to its nonprofit real estate arm as part of a proposed $86 million renovation plan to add student housing and a new grand entrance, Signal Cleveland recently reported.

Rhodes Tower could be getting an $86 million makeover as Cleveland State University eyes a major overhaul after transferring ownership of the building to Euclid Avenue Development Corporation (EADC), Signal Cleveland reported on April 17. 

The corporation, known as EADC, is Cleveland State's real estate arm and is, in effect, the university’s landlord. 

According to Signal, CSU plans to create new dorms with more than 500 beds and a two-story glass entrance off Chester Ave. with a “monumental staircase.” The new housing would also include amenities and collaborative study spaces.

Plans for the revamp of Rhodes Tower were part of Cleveland State's ambitious CSU 2.0 plans. But Signal's reporting on the transition of ownership is new.

Rhodes Tower, which opened in 1971, has been historically underutilized because of long-ignored maintenance problems and its asbestos-riddled building materials. The tower currently houses the Michael Schwartz Library and various offices and classrooms. 

The tower is an example of CSU’s aging infrastructure. In 2022, water pipes burst in the building, destroying tens of thousands of books. The 19th floor has been closed since 2009 because of the asbestos, a carcinogen which the federal government recently, and finally, banned in building materials.

“Whether we convert the tower to a residence hall or we revitalize it back to what its current uses are, either way, we need to abate the asbestos in the building,” CSU’s Chief Financial Officer David Jewell told Signal Cleveland.

CSU, which is currently struggling with a projected $40 million deficit, received the Brownfield Grant to help pay for asbestos removal. Jewell told Signal Cleveland that the money for the project would not come from the university’s operating budget.

Transferring ownership of the building to EADC has, in part, allowed CSU to become eligible for historic tax credits and other funding. 

While the majority of students who attend CSU are commuters, the university claims that more students want to live on campus. The university saw a 13% drop in enrollment in the last five years, with fall 2023 enrollment at just over 14,000 students. This number is expected to continue to drop before it stabilizes, with a figure in the 13,000-range by 2029.

One wrinkle, according to Signal, is that the Ernst & Young accounting firm which has been auditing the university could recommend to the administration that they do not need any additional campus housing. Jewell said the university will reevaluate the Rhodes Tower makeover with EY's recommendations in a final report that will be issued this year.

The Cleveland Stater reached out to CSU for clarification of Signal's reporting, but the administration declined to comment further on the topic.