Late last year, it seemed the project was relocating to a site on Mall C, overlooking the lakefront.
That was because property owners at the original site at the corner of Ontario Street and St. Clair Avenue were making what the county considered exorbitant demands for their property.
But those talks have restarted and seem to be close to resolution, according to Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan.
"In all probability, it's going back to the original site. We were negotiating deals with people who were trying to get what they could," he said.
That will avoid an emotional debate about using the valuable and cherished Mall property for this project.
On Thursday, the county commissioners will also hear details of a construction agreement that addresses critics' issues and concerns about the county's preliminary agreement with project developer MMPI.
Lawyer Jeff Appelbaum helped broker terms and conditions surrounding the Gateway projects. He's been involved with dozens of significant projects nationwide.
He will tell commissioners he's arranged a deal that is easier for the public to understand, provides more chances for local companies to be part of the bidding process, and addresses diversity concerns.
"It's going to be more transparent, an iron-clad agreement that will give opportunites for local companies to be engaged," Hagan claimed.
Hagan understands public impatience and skepticism with a project that many perceive as slow-moving.
"Everybody is a critic. But they don't have our responsibility. This methodical approach is the only way to do big projects like this," he said.
Appelbaum is in talks with the City of Cleveland to address concerns about Public Hall.
MMPI revealed problems with electrical, plumbing and other systems in the building.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson must decide how much of the revenue the city gets in the final deal to spend on making improvements to keep the building usable and how much to demand from the county and MMPI.
"I envision a deal. I believe anything beyond 2010 will create a big problem with us being competitive, " Jackson said, in apparent reference to similar projects being pursued in other cities.
Hagan's predicts, "Work will begin this year for sure. It's going to get done. MMPI, the county and the city are going to make this happen."
Hagan said he would not be opposed to extending the 20-year sales tax for the project to help with possible cost issue.
He says the switch to a new form of county government next year will not delay progress this year.
City Councilman Joe Cimperman is organizing a series of four public meetings in February to discuss different aspects of the Medical Mart/Convention Center project.