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Once-toxic industrial site poised for redemption, redevelopment, new jobs

Posted at 5:51 PM, Aug 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-15 09:06:27-04

A vacant 22-acre plot of land once befouled by decades of heavy industry could undergo the ultimate redemption as a local developer is poised to purchase the property from the City of Cleveland with the intention of redeveloping the site and creating jobs in the process.

On Wednesday, the City Council will vote on whether to sell the former Midland Steel site to Warrensville Heights-based developer Weston Inc. for $1.65 million, in addition to a 10-year property tax abatement. Upon the site being fully developed and fully occupied, the project could generate at least 100 jobs and provide  $1.4 million in property tax revenues for Cleveland schools and nearly $900,000 in annual income tax revenue.

Midland Steel, located between Madison Ave., West 106th St. and West 110th St., shuttered in 2003 after the company declared bankruptcy. The city took ownership of the property and then spent $5.3 million in local, state and federal money to rid the soil of toxic chemicals and other pollutants left behind by more than a century’s worth of industry.

Then, for the past decade, the property has remained dormant. The only activity at the site is the chirping of crickets, scurrying field mice and drifting weeds and cattails.

Not for long, however.

“It’s going to be something. I can’t even tell you how many people have called to inquire, ‘What’s going on?’” said Councilwoman Dona Brady. “Whether they were the businesses, people or the residents, they want to know what’s going on. They’re excited about it. They really are.”

City officials and Weston Inc. began negotiating and doing their due diligence on the property in 2017. As part of the legislation that is set to be voted on by the City Council, the city will sell the property to Weston Inc. who, in turn, will construct a large industrial building that will be more than 160,000 square feet. The structure will be parallel to Madison Avenue. A second phase of the project will include the construction of two additional, 108,000-square-foot buildings. However, the physical dimensions of the buildings will hinge upon the needs of prospective tenants. The structures could be built-to-suit, Brady said.

Weston would also receive a 60 percent abatement on all non-school property taxes for 10 years, pending Council’s approval. Both measures received unanimous approval during Tuesday’s committee meetings.

“[The project] actually abates a big blight. Right now we have a big blighted site that has weeds [that are several feet tall],” Brady said. “It’s not producing jobs. It’s not producing income for the City of Cleveland. The city has held it for all these years. It’s really going to be a big boost. Plus, it provides the opportunity for some jobs for our local residents. Those are, as you know, direly needed.”

Eric Banks, who owns and operates Shine-On Auto Detailing across from the empty field, said the project is sorely needed to inject life back into the neighborhood.

“It’s a lot of land to do something with. It’s a lot of land to be bare and not taken care of either,” Banks said. “I think it will be a great thing for this neighborhood. The more the merrier. It’s needed. [Midland] has been gone for a while. It’s time to do something with it.”