CHAGRIN HIGHLANDS is a 630-acre multiuse property in the vicinity of Harvard and Richmond Roads near I-271, 12 miles southeast of Cleveland. Portions of Chagrin Highlands lie in BEACHWOOD, HIGHLAND HILLS VILLAGE, ORANGE, and WARRENSVILLE HTS. Planned as a corporate park, Chagrin Highlands now encompasses offices, medical facilities, hotels, and retail businesses. Chagrin Highlands occupies a portion of the former COOLEY FARMS, a nationally known model assemblage of penal, recuperative, and rehabilitative facilities including the CLEVELAND WORKHOUSE that operated on over 2,000 acres of rural land that the City of Cleveland acquired in WARRENSVILLE TWP. between 1904 and 1912. Other facilities included the Highland Park Cemetery, Highland Park Golf Course, County Infirmary (later Highland View Hospital), and Warrensville Sanatorium (later Sunny Acres Tuberculosis Hospital) (see CUYAHOGA COUNTY HOSPITAL SYSTEM). In 1955 one of seven NIKE MISSILE BASES in the county was built at Harvard and Richmond Roads and operated until 1963.

In 1970 the MAYORAL ADMINISTRATION OF CARL B. STOKES planned to seek federal funding under the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 to create a “new town in town” called Warren’s Ridge on 865 acres of the city’s land in Warrensville Twp. and Orange. Warren’s Ridge was envisioned as a master-planned community with 8,150 housing units for 25,000 people. Per federal regulations, it would have had to include one-third low-income housing. Warren’s Ridge drew inspiration from prominent new towns such as Columbia, Maryland, and Reston, Virginia, and the Stokes administration viewed it as an opportunity to overcome decades of suburban opposition to the prospect of minority and low-income residents. The plan faced hurdles such as zoning and deed restrictions, as well as concerns among neighboring suburban residents and officials about the plan’s potential impact on roads, schools, and sewers. Had Warren’s Ridge been developed, it might have echoed Cleveland’s Progressive Era societal improvement experiments on its suburban fringe.

When RALPH J. PERK succeeded Stokes as mayor in 1971, he scrapped Warren’s Ridge in favor of leasing the city-owned land to a private developer for commercial or industrial use, with revenues used to underwrite new housing in the inner city. However, no action was taken. The ensuing decade saw unsuccessful attempts by Beachwood and Warrensville Hts. to annex Warrensville Twp. Then, in 1989, FIGGIE INTL. (later renamed Scott Technologies) and the Richard E. Jacobs Group announced a plan to transform the city’s Warrensville Twp. property into a corporate park anchored by a new world headquarters building for Figgie. Figgie had moved its Willoughby headquarters to Richmond, Virginia, in 1982 to jumpstart a similar corporate park there. The launch of Chagrin Highlands depended on the incorporation of Highland Hills Village (1990) and annexation by Beachwood and Warrensville Hts. of the unincorporated remainder of the Warrensville Twp. to permit the City of Cleveland to garner income-tax revenues expected to be generated by the Figgie-Jacobs development. This move had to overcome a threat by SHAKER HTS. not to approve the incorporation until Cleveland approved renewing its lease of the SHAKER LAKES to the suburb, an action that in turn required mollifying Cleveland African American city council members who perceived racial overtones in Shaker’s refusal to dismantle street barricades it erected, ostensibly for traffic control, along its border with Cleveland in the 1970s. Despite striking a deal, the project languished in the 1990s. Figgie Intl. suffered severe financial losses, resulting in a scaled-down headquarters plan that led Mayor MICHAEL R. WHITE to sour on Chagrin Highlands in 1994. A two-year legal battle between the city and Figgie Intl. ensued, stalling construction of the long-promised headquarters. The first office building, One Chagrin Highlands, was completed on Auburn Drive in 1999. Scott Technologies, Inc., as Figgie Intl. was renamed in 1998, occupied a portion of the building, but within two years Tyco Intl. acquired the firm. The building later became home to a branch of CLEVELAND CLINIC FOUNDATION Cole Eye Institute.

Development in Chagrin Highlands was slow until the completion of a new Harvard Road interchange on I-271 in 2000, which spurred accelerated growth over the next two decades. In 2005, the Marriott Cleveland East hotel opened, followed by Harvard Park shopping center (2006) and UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS' Monte Ahuja Medical Center (2011). EATON CORP., one of Cleveland’s last remaining Fortune 500 firms after a long exodus that ended the city’s onetime status as the nation’s third-largest major headquarters city, moved its home offices from downtown Cleveland to Chagrin Highlands in 2013, creating a “world-class” facility of the kind that Figgie Intl. had promised more than two decades earlier. Chagrin Highlands did not match the density of so-called “edge cities” like Tysons Corner in northern Virginia or Perimeter Center outside Atlanta, but its concentration of employment, augmented by the presence of the CUYAHOGA COMMUNITY COLLEGE Eastern Campus (1981), fueled new housing construction in adjacent suburban communities.

Mark Souther

Last updated: 6/20/2019

Bloom, Nicholas Dagen. “The Federal Icarus: The Public Rejection of 1970s National Suburban Planning.” Journal of Urban History 28:1 (2001): 55-71.

Garreau, Joel. Edge City: Life on the New Frontier. New York: Doubleday, 1991.