warrensville heights demolition makes way for heinen's expansion

Last month, a collaboration between the Cuyahoga County Land Bank (CCLB), the city of Warrensville Heights and local grocery mainstay Heinen's finally came to fruition -- or demolition -- depending on how you look at it.

Backhoes and bulldozers went to work taking down a 77,000-square-foot structure on South Miles Road to clear the way for Heinen's new $9 million 70,000-square-foot food production plant. The facility, which is slated to open in 2016, will house food packaging and preparation functions, but no retail. It will be adjacent to Heinen's existing warehouse at 20601 Aurora Road, which is just under 100,000-square-feet.

The effort began in 2012 when Heinen's approached the city after efforts to purchase the 5.2-acre parcel, which carried a $1 million lien, came to no avail. In turn, the city contacted the CCLB.

"There were three businesses operating in the building when I took my first look at in December of 2012," recalls CCLB's director of acquisitions, dispositions and development Cheryl Stephens. "When I walked into the building, I saw a ton of code violations." The property also had $208,000 in delinquent taxes incurred from as far back as 2009. When the owners declined to donate the property, CCLB started foreclosure procedures.

"We make sure legally we have dotted every I and crossed every T. We make sure we're not relieving anyone of their property rights without notice and due diligence on either part to make sure that every offer has been made," says Stephens. "Because property ownership in this country is recognized as a sacred right, we don't relieve someone of it without doing every step that we can." One of the three resident businesses, all of which were leasing, was already in the process of relocating. The other two vacated over safety concerns. The foreclosure, after which the CCLB took possession of the property, took about a year.

Other services provided by the county include demolition supervision and a level one environmental abatement on the property, which was essentially asbestos removal. Stephens estimates the demolition project will cost between $625,000 and $650,000.

"We don't have final number yet," says Stephens. "There are always change orders." The CCLB is selling the property to Heinen's for $50,000.

To further facilitate the deal, the county granted a $500,000 interest-free loan to Heinen's, courtesy of the Cuyahoga County Western Reserve Fund, to cover the cost of the demolition. The loan is contingent upon Heinen's creating at least 15 jobs at the new facility.

"This is one of those really good job retention stories where a mayor realizes that if he doesn’t do something, a company can expand and grow outside of his community," says Stephens. "This is a good deal, not just for Heinen's, but for the communities involved.

"This is quintessentially good economic development."

Erin O'Brien
Erin O'Brien

About the Author: Erin O'Brien

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit erinobrien.us for complete profile information.