Adnan Zai, Advisor to Berkeley Capital located in Beachwood, lives and works in the city that he loves and has a vested interest in the success of the city. Recently there have been some heated discussions around town about the price tag of the new proposed city park. We sat down with Adnan Zai recently to get an insider’s scoop on this situation.

Mary Kraven: Several weeks ago, Beachwood City Council voted to create a new city park which will be located next to the Beachwood Family Aquatic Center on Fairmount Boulevard. Although the park will be a state-of-the-art fenced-in facility with a safe rubber and turf surface, some residents are disappointed in the total price tag of $3.3MM-3.4MM. But with zip lines, interactive games, ADA accessible features, sand features, and even music and art, Beachwood Mayor Justin Berns is in favor of the plan, saying, “We have the opportunity to upgrade our aging playground, which is a highly utilized, free amenity that residents can take their kids and grandkids to,” he said. “This highly visible facility in one of Beachwood’s most trafficked corridors will help to not just attract new families, but also retain residents and increase home values for everyone in the community.”

Do you think a new park is an integral, important part of a city’s make-up, especially Beachwood?

Adnan Zai: Having lived in Beachwood for many years, and having three kids of my own, I see great value in a park like this. I live, work, and play in this beautiful city, and I want it to flourish long into the future. In order to do that, we need to attract high-quality families to our city. This park will also serve to retain the families that we do have, and I also believe it will improve the home values for all concerned.

Mary Kraven: The Mayor wants to raise the bar on his community, and ensure that Beachwood is one of the best communities around. “I want to see Beachwood not just compete as a top community, but be the example that other communities aspire to,” Berns said.

How important is it in your opinion to be an example for other communities?

Adnan Zai: I think when you help yourself flourish as a community, that you are automatically serving as an example to other cities in the area. We already have so many things to be proud of in our community, and this will just build on the good work we have already done. Drawing young professional families into our area is always good for business, and will help the greater Cleveland area to flourish as well.

Mary Kraven: On the other side of the coin, Beachwood City Councilman Mike Burkons has proposed scrapping this plan and starting over with a smaller budget. “If we only spent $1.5 million,” he said, “we’d still be spending half a million dollars more than the most expensive playground in the county’s history.” What is your take on this?

Adnan Zai: Beachwood is not a sleepy little town that is content with the status quo. If you want a thriving community, you need to be on the cutting edge of situations like this in order to bring in new citizens. Even Cuyahoga County is affirming this playground with a $700,000 grant for the project.

Mary Kraven: Recently Public Works Director Chris Arrietta spoke out against Burkon’s idea to spend only $1.5MM on the park and the need for Beachwood to be a city that sets trends.  “At $1.5 million, we’re not setting the standard,” Arrietta said. “We’ve always set the standard in Beachwood, whether it was the fire facility (construction of Fire Station No. 2, which opened in 2018, on Richmond Road and Park East Drive), or Barkwood (dog park), or pickleball (being added at the park west of City Hall), community gardens (new gardens opened just last week), or City Hall (when it was constructed). We set the standard; we always do. We want what’s best for the community. For the children of the community, we want to set the standard for them to enjoy (the new playground) for the next 20 years.”

Adnan Zai: He is right. We have always led the pack in the Greater Cleveland area and people have come to expect that from our city. Even though my children are too old for the park now, I know that it adds value to our great community. Whether our safety forces, our gardens, our pickleball courts, or our improved City Hall, we are a community that cares about its residents and wants what is best for them. When you build quality structures you need to pay for them, and then you reap the rewards down the road. The main issue is that the city is facing this backlash about the cost. In the past, whenever a city wanted to improve the quality of life for its residents and children, it was never an issue. But this post-Covid world has made everything an issue.

Mary Kraven: The park plans did pass the City Council and the old park is scheduled for demolition in late fall of this year with a grand opening for the new park slated for summer 2024. Do you anticipate that the backlash will die down as the reality sets in?

Adnan Zai: Anytime you try to make improvements or move the ball forward, you will meet resistance. The sign of a true leader or a true trend-setting city is that they will keep up the forward progress despite the dissension. I personally look forward to the day next summer when I can drive by the new park and see the community’s children happy and at play.

Mary Kraven: Thank you so much for your insights, Adnan Zai. As someone who lives, works, and plays in Beachwood, you truly understand what is at stake with this park project.