While demolition of former Whirlpool Plants 1 and 2 remains in progress, Cleveland City Manager Joe Fivas is predicting significant developments will take place this year regarding the future of the …
While demolition of former Whirlpool Plants 1 and 2 remains in progress, Cleveland City Manager Joe Fivas is predicting significant developments will take place this year regarding the future of the site, located in the city’s downtown.
The plants were vacated in 2012 when Whirlpool transitioned its local manufacturing operations to a new plant on Benton Pike.
After standing vacant for seven years, plant demolition by a Whirlpool contractor began last year, in order to clear the way for future redevelopment.
“They're doing what they said that they would do: to take down the buildings, and I would suspect this will be the first year of either redeveloping their property or finding a partnership or get it in the hands of someone that wants to redevelop it,” Fivas said.
Late last year, Whirlpool Corporation agreed to write a letter granting the city control of the site where former Whirlpool Plant 2 once stood, contingent on the city securing a grant to construct a planned $7.8 million, 62,000-square-foot sports complex, as well as a green space and a lake.
The agreement took place during a meeting in August at Whirlpool’s corporate offices in Benton Harbor, Mich., which was attended by Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks, Fivas, Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Griffin and Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Economic Development Doug Berry.
The city also announced around the same time that it was applying for a $4 million grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee Health Foundation's Blue Cross Healthy Place Projects program for construction of the sports complex, which will feature eight basketball courts and eight volleyball courts.
City leaders expect the complex will attract up to 200,000 visitors each year to Cleveland's downtown.
“They have agreed to send us a letter that they would cooperate and give control of the land to the city of Cleveland,” Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks told the Banner in a previous interview. “That was the language they used.”
Brooks' comments came as an update on the pivotal gathering held at the Whirlpool headquarters site. The session ended on a positive note — for both the city of Cleveland and Whirlpool — and that led to Brooks' encouraging assessment in the newspaper interview.
Through a long series of manufacturing predecessors, Whirlpool — which continues to serve as Bradley County's largest employer — has been a corporate partner to the community and to local economic development for decades, dating back to 1917 when Dixie Foundry became the first company on the south Cleveland site.
Located in what eventually became Plant 1 East and Plant 1 West, Dixie Foundry underwent a name-change in the 1950s to Dixie Products. In time, Dixie Products — headed by "Skeet" Rymer — acquired another major appliance manufacturer, Magic Chef Inc., which was headquartered in St. Louis. Corporate offices for the merged companies remained in Cleveland, but the Magic Chef name was retained because of its national appeal.
At the time, Dixie Foundry and Dixie Products had served more as regional producers of appliances. Taking on the Magic Chef identity assured immediate growth and a broader appeal in the rapidly growing appliance market.
In 1986, the former Maytag Company purchased Magic Chef. This came four years after Maytag had acquired another Cleveland-based appliance manufacturer — Hardwick Stove, whose roots went all the way back to the 1870s.
After Maytag's acquisition of Magic Chef, the local plant took on a new name: Maytag Cleveland Cooking Products, an operation which thrived for the next two decades. However, as Maytag Corporation's fortunes began to dwindle because of rising international competition, another manufacturing rival — Whirlpool Corporation — purchased the struggling company in March 2006.
At the time, Maytag Cleveland Cooking Products produced electric and gas appliances in three different facilities: Plant 1 East and Plant 1 West, Plant 2 and Plant 3. Shortly after the acquisition by Whirlpool, Plant 3 was closed in order to reduce operation costs.
Whirlpool continued to produce premium cooking products in Plant 1 and Plant 2 for the next six years. In 2010, the global corporation announced it would build a new state-of-the-art, LEED-certified, 1 million-square-foot factory on Benton Pike. Whirlpool opened the new plant in 2012.
Inset Quote (Page 1):
"I would suspect this will be the first year of either redeveloping their property or finding a partnership or get it in the hands of someone that wants to redevelop it." — City Manager Joe Fivas
Inset Quote (Page 10):
“They have agreed to send us a letter that they would cooperate and give control of the land to the city of Cleveland. That was the language they used.” — Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks
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