CHURCH SQUARE SHOPPING CENTER, part of an effort to rebuild the inner city, was the first major retail development on the near-east side in 40 years. Planning for the site, bound by Euclid, E. 79th, Chester, and E. 84th streets, began in 1984 and was designed to anchor the revitalization efforts of the HOUGH and FAIRFAX neighborhoods. Sponsored by the Hough-area NOAH Inc. (Neighbors Organized for Action in Housing) and Tri-Star Development Co. of BEACHWOOD the project received a $3.7 million Urban Development Action Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1987. Originally known as Midtown Square, the project was to have an Ames (formerly Zayre) Department Store as its anchor tenant. A second phase was to include the construction of housing on the site. Construction on the first phase of the project was slated to begin in the spring of 1990, but was postponed after Ames filed for bankruptcy in Apr. 1990.
Following the delay, developers scaled back plans to include a 100,000 square ft. shopping center with additional housing to occupy the remainder of the parcel. After the project acquired financing, including some from local banks, the federal government, and the CLEVELAND FOUNDATION, groundbreaking took place in May 1992. The project was renamed Church Square due to the number of churches that stood on EUCLID near the site. Construction was completed at the $13-million "Shops at Church Square" portion of the project in March 1993, and the shopping center officially opened the following month with 100% occupancy. In September 1993, Church Square received national attention when Pres. Bill Clinton, Vice Pres. Al Gore, and an entourage, which included some members of Congress along with the secretaries of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education, used the shopping center as the first stop on their three-state trip to promote the administration's plans for "reinventing the government." With close to 2,000 onlookers, Clinton hailed the shopping center as a perfect example of public and private cooperation that his proposed plan for streamlining the federal government could achieve.
In the summer of 1995, the next phase of the project began with the construction of "Beacon Place"-a mixed development of single-family homes and townhouses aimed at luring middle-class residents back to Cleveland's midtown. Built on the land next to the Church Square Shopping Center, the 10-acre project offered prospective homebuyers 15-year tax abatements and low-interest mortgages. Priced at over 10 times that of median home values in the area, by 1997, the PLAIN DEALER reported that interest in the homes had far out-stripped the pace of construction and, with the encouragement of federal, state, and local programs, residents in the surrounding neighborhoods reported some success in their efforts to revitalize the area.