BEREA, Ohio — After unanimous approval from the Berea City Council, the Cleveland Browns training facility will remain in the city through 2039. As part of the deal, the Browns will also expand the facility’s footprint by acquiring property owned by a historic church nearby. In exchange for the property, the team will also finance the construction of the church’s new home less than a mile away.
Mayor Cyril Kleem said the agreement took nearly two years to formulate and involves the city, the Browns, Mount Zion Baptist Church and the Berea City School District.
“It’s very complicated but all the parties walked away very happy,” Mayor Kleem said.
The Browns organization will purchase properties that currently hold Mount Zion’s sanctuary and parking lot at 572 Pearl Street. The church’s property backs up to the team’s practice fields. In addition to paying the church for the acquisition of the property, the organization will also finance the construction of the church’s new sanctuary and offices on Emerson Ave., roughly a half-mile away from the church’s current location. The property on which the new church building will be constructed upon was owned by the city of Berea, who had acquired the land from the Berea City School District.
The city had acquired the property through a land swap with the school district, which also received waivers on permitting fees to build the new high school.
Mayor Kleem said the deal uniquely benefited every party involved.
“[The Browns] didn’t come in and try to push anybody around. That’s not their style. They said, ‘let’s sit down at the table and talk about it,’” Mayor Kleem said. “This wasn’t viewed as a business negotiation. It was partnership. We all came away very happy.”
The organization was also very generous and congenial when discussing with church leaders the purchase of Mount Zion’s property, Mayor Kleem said. The church’s voting members unanimously approved the deal.
“Mount Zion Church is special to us. That’s the oldest traditionally African-American church in this whole area,” Mayor Kleem said. “Their 100th anniversary is this year. It means a lot to us because they are a community partner but it’s also a historic part of our community.”
The deal may also prove beneficial for the city’s taxpayers. The Browns organization is Berea’s largest income taxpayer, accounting for more than $3 million in income tax revenues annually. The organization alone pays 25 percent of the city’s total income tax revenue each year, Mayor Kleem said.
In addition to the income tax revenues, the team will also begin paying the property taxes on the training facility, which amount to roughly $600,000 a year.
Because the Browns organization leases the training facility from the city, under the original agreement, the city paid for the property taxes. Even though Berea receives $100,000 of the $600,000 back from the property tax payments, the city still had to pay the remaining $500,000 to schools, the county and Metroparks.
Under the new deal, that $500,000 liability is no more.
“Instead of looking for ways to extend that abatement, the Browns didn’t want to do that. We didn’t want to do that. We didn’t want to hurt the schools. The Browns picked up the taxes to it even though we are responsible for that,” Mayor Kleem said. “Cities are known for certain things. We have Baldwin Wallace University and the Browns. The Browns draw a lot of people to our community and they’re looking so good that the excitement around here is incredible.”