Berry: Next step in downtown redo is Whirlpool site

By BRIAN GRAVES

Posted 2/4/18

The movement of redeveloping downtown and the neighborhoods in south Cleveland may be the initiative that will motivate Whirlpool into taking action concerning its former plant site.

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Berry: Next step in downtown redo is Whirlpool site

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The movement of redeveloping downtown and the neighborhoods in south Cleveland may be the initiative that will motivate Whirlpool into taking action concerning its former plant site.

Doug Berry, Clevelkand/Bradley Chamber of Commerce vice president of economic development, said he had conversations with the company last week “to reset in light of the city’s commitment  made through this most recent budget year” to downtown redevelopment.

“I’ll be perfectly honest,” Berry said. “This community is just now ready to begin focusing on Whirlpool. We’ve been talking on and off about it since 2010. Whirlpool has been doing environmental assessments of their site. I have been told there has not been anything identified they would see as being a problem.”

He added the need to be realistic in talking about a “100-year-old industrial site that operated until 1974 without any Federal regulations overseeing it.”

“We have to be realistic in understanding there will be a few things we have to deal with as a company or community or together,” Berry said. “We don’t know what those are, but this next year will be discovery on that.”

“The next step is for the city, the industrial board, the Chamber and Whirlpool to sit down and start defining what kind of limitations do we have on that area and what is the appropriate use transition given the limitations,” he said. “I was asked if I thought that was a viable manufacturing site. My statement was, ‘No.’ I think the community has moved beyond that.”

Chamber President/CEO Gary Farlow said the infrastructure for manufacturing is not there anymore.

“The things going on with the city focusing on downtown redevelopment, with what City Fields is doing with Blythe-Bowers, and if we can get something going with Whirlpool on that site — all of those factors start coming together and you can actually start to see something happening,” Farlow said. “But, none of that stuff happens fast.”

Farlow said there has been a perception Whirlpool would give the site to the city along with the money to do something with it.

“That’s just not realistic to expect,” he said.

City Manager Joe Fivas said the city’s strategy is instead of waiting for Whirlpool to “do everything,” is to show them the city is serious about redevelopment.

“We have taken some proactive steps and a lot that is to show our friends at Whirlpool we are serious. We want to have a fruitful, vibrant partnership that makes them very successful,” Fivas said. “I think because the city over the last year has taken those steps, that’s going to pay dividends. I believe they are going to want to partner with us because they have been in this community for a long time. We know they are in a complex situation, but I think it was up to the city to put a good leap of faith and show them we are ready. We have the people and the things to do that complex of a project.”

“If they look and see we have this 90-acres and you’re not doing anything, how much do you care about us spending a bunch of money?” he said. “I think at the end of the day, we’re on the right track. It will be redeveloped. It’s really going to be the nucleus for what Cleveland will be over the next several years of redoing these acres around the downtown area.”

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