Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Vice President Doug Berry said he had dealt with several inquiries prior to the recent board meeting.
One of the industrial prospects led the IDB to adjourn the regular meeting to enter executive session to discuss a prospect that might have had interest in property owned by the Robert Wright family. The property is roughly located east of the new state industrial access road from Lauderdale Memorial Highway to Wacker. The family and one other property owner are moving to certify about 225 acres as an industrial site.
Industrial Development Board Chair Ross Tarver reported big demand for Whirlpool high-end cooking products has led to a decision to delay completely vacating Plant No. 1 in downtown Cleveland until the end of 2014.
Berry said the date should remain fluid due to continuously changing dynamics, but it gives economic development leaders a target.
“We’ve brought them up to speed on our grant application for planning assistance from EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for area planning and master planning associated with the site they’ll be vacating,” Berry said. “They’ve indicated they have an interest in beginning to work with us at a corporate level to look at alternate options that might be available for revitalization.”
He expressed doubt any of the buildings at the century-old plant would have any viable uses for manufacturing or anything else.
“They do want us to keep them engaged, and they do want to be an active participant as we explore what we are going to do,” Berry said. “The company has indicated the last thing Whirlpool wants is to walk away from the site without having an active role and working with the community. I think that’s a good commitment to the community. How we take that and how we get there is open for a lot of conversation.”
Cleveland Utilities General Manager Tom Wheeler asked if a subcommittee of the Southside Redevelopment Task Force should be formed to work with Whirlpool on a corporate level.
Berry agreed there should be a compact team to interface with the corporation on a regular basis. There should be no more than five members with specific skillsets in areas such as utilities and transportation.
“The larger committee (task force) is an important component as we move forward, but it’s somewhat cumbersome when you’re dealing with a schedule,” he said. “But, it’s an exciting time.”
There was some discussion about posting the site of the future Spring Branch Industrial Park against trespassing. Berry said he has also spoken to two engineers about working up proposals for the design and development phase of the park.
“The intent of this is to identify the cost and initiate the process of doing some stormwater management system and plan, [and to] lay in the roads, the utilities infrastructures and also to do a comprehensive grading analysis that would look at how you would approach grading the property in phases, given our ultimate lot configuration,” he said.
The engineering study would also address the impact of downstream flooding because of the industrial park. The study would set the baseline for flooding that already occurs in that area. Berry said most of the discoloration occurs before stormwater leaves the drainpipe underneath the interstate.
“There are changes in state law so that in 2015, a site must detain the first inch of rain it receives; detain it and never release it,” Berry said. “That’s going to require site design to change and [there to] be an emphasis on eliminating permeable surfaces as much as you can.”