Former Whirlpool site still getting activity

Certain buildings are being utilized

JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Posted 2/9/16

Parts of the former Whirlpool site are still in use as the company studies potential future uses.

The Cleveland City Council had expressed concern during its last meeting that the site was …

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Former Whirlpool site still getting activity

Certain buildings are being utilized

Posted

Parts of the former Whirlpool site are still in use as the company studies potential future uses.

The Cleveland City Council had expressed concern during its last meeting that the site was abandoned and could become a magnet for crime.

Doug Berry, vice president for economic development at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, attempted to put these concerns to rest during a presentation to the Council Monday.

“The plant sites are not really abandoned,” Berry said.

The Plant 2 site is still being used by Whirlpool as a warehouse.

“Plant 3, which is the detached part, believe it or not, has an interested party in it and they are in negotiations with a potential purchaser,” Berry said. “The distribution center, which is the large metal building associated with Plant 1, it is actually under lease to a third party at this point in time and is fully occupied.”

The remainder of Plant 1 is not in use. However, Berry said the building has been deemed unfit for redevelopment and will likely be torn down. He said this portion of the plant “was unfortunately built in the floodway. It has had a history of flooding and problems.”

Many of the University of Tennessee Smart Communities Initiative students’ ideas proposed developing this area as a community park or recreation area.

“This has to be a very methodical process, and Whirlpool is in discussions with us,” Berry said.

He said a company has been hired by Whirlpool to maintain the buildings and make sure they are secure.

In looking at ways the former site could be redeveloped, Whirlpool has hired a nationally known planning company and looked at the designs prepared by the UT Smart Communities Initiative students last year.

“Their (Whirlpool) focus is on what do they think fits this market,” Berry said.

Berry will continue to be in discussion with Whirlpool on how they are progressing with a plan.

Councilman Richard Banks said planning redevelopment of the site was important and he did not want to see it “like the Old Woolen Mill, with broken windows.”

Economic development near Interstate 75 Exit 20 was also discussed during Berry’s presentation.

The Spring Branch Industrial Park southern area will actually require less grade work then originally thought, meaning a cost saving for development of the site of close to $1 million.

“The value-added engineering that we have done has almost cut in half the site grading,” Berry said.

The industrial park is projected to bring 2,316 jobs to the site and $84,677,592 in direct payroll, Berry said.

This is anticipated to mean $59,581,757 in retail spending, bringing in about $1.6 million in sales tax revenue to the city and county.

The master plan for the site has nine industrial parcels and 3 million square feet of space. The site includes buffer zones and wetlands preservation on about 61 acres of the site

Revenue for development of the site will also come from allowing a company to clear the trees for reuse, rather than simply disposing of them.

“We did start timbering the industrial areas. We received three bidders … and we got a high bid of $155,000 for the timber,” Berry said.

In the areas where trees will be preserved, some will be removed to thin the forest.

The Industrial Development Board is also researching eligibility for the Invest Prep TVA grant and the State of Tennessee’s Certified Sites grant opportunities to create more revenue for site development. This would be in addition to the $3 million each the city and county are expected to contribute to bring a road, needed utilities and other infrastructure to the site.

While the site is too far away from Volkswagen to be a good location for Tier 1 suppliers to the auto manufacturing plant, the site is close enough that is could be a good site for Tier 2 and 3 supplies which create parts for the Tier 1 suppliers, Berry said.

Development at Exit 20 is expected to also include commercial projects.

“There are about 200 acres of commercial property that will be privately, commercially developed,” Berry said.

He said the southeast area of the site would likely be “office space, light warehouse distribution and multifamily development.”

The expectation is that 100 acres of the site will be developed in the next two years.

“That will result in about 70 acres of retail … six restaurants, four hotels, 200,000 square feet of office and about 20 acres of apartments,” Berry said.

Based on some assumptions on the number of employees and types of restaurants, Berry estimated that the commercial development would create 2,200 jobs, making a combined salary of $59,613,400. It is expected to annually generate $514,000 in local sales tax revenue and $969,965 in residential property tax. It is expected to generate $697,748 in property tax to the city and $739,324 in property tax to the county.

The City Council has asked Berry to come back with updates on the Spring branch Industrial Park every other month.

Also during the meeting, the City Council approved:

n A rezoning request for 4.76 acres located at Smith Drive and Cedar Lane from R2 Low Density Single and Multi-Family Residential Zoning District to R3 Multi-Family Residential Zoning District.

n Abandoning an unopened section of 3rd Street between Hill Street and Sheeler Street.

n Reappointment of Vice-Mayor George Poe and Councilman Charlie McKenzie to the Economic Development Council.

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