With just a touch of the control levers, a heavy equipment operator began demolishing Whirlpool Corporation's former 100-plus-year-old Plant 2 facility, clearing the site for future development as …
With just a touch of the control levers, a heavy equipment operator began demolishing Whirlpool Corporation's former 100-plus-year-old Plant 2 facility, clearing the site for future development as Cleveland's long-awaited downtown revitalization plans increasingly become a reality.
Plant 2, a longtime staple of appliance manufacturing history in Bradley County, once housed operations of the old Hardwick Stove Company. The much-respected manufacturer was acquired in 1982 by the former Maytag Company.
Four years later, Maytag purchased the Magic Chef Company, a rival appliance maker located just across the railroad tracks from Hardwick Stove which operated at the corner of Euclid and Third streets. The acquisition set up a merged manufacturing operation that included three separate factory buildings: Plant 1 (East and West plants), Plant 2 (formerly Hardwick Stove) and Plant 3 (formerly Cleveland Enamel).
The Maytag and Magic Chef marriage eventually landed a new name for the local manufacturing site: Maytag Cleveland Cooking Products. In March 2006, Whirlpool Corporation acquired Maytag.
Earlier this week, Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks said talks between the city and the major appliance manufacturer concerning the future of the site began shortly after Whirlpool relocated to its new state-of-the-art LEED-certified facility, located on Benton Pike, in 2012.
According to Whirlpool, the Cleveland plant employs 1,500 workers at its “premium cooking facility, which is the largest in the United States."
“In 2012, when Whirlpool designed and built their new world-class manufacturing plant, it began the conversation that has brought us here today, with the beginning of the transition away from King Edward Avenue," Brooks said.
The discussions began to morph into action last fall.
“In September of 2018, in conversation with Whirlpool corporate offices, the potential demolition of Plants No. 1 & 2 and the project timeline was discussed for the first time in many years," Brooks said.
The razing of the Plant 2 became a reality Tuesday, when Brooks was informed by City Planner Corey Divel that the demolition project was in progress. Brooks said he immediately contacted Whirlpool officials.
"My very first phone call was to Mr. Luke Harms, Whirlpool corporate attorney, to say, 'Thank you,'” Brooks said.
Whirlpool spokesperson Deborah H. O'Conner said, "Whirlpool Corporation is committed to partnering with the city in its redevelopment efforts of the downtown area by reaching out to potential buyers/developers who will provide the best future use of the former manufacturing site."
She said the plans are undetermined at this time.
"To better position the property for a sale, Whirlpool is demolishing three unusable buildings on the property, leaving the concrete pads and foundation intact. The three buildings are commonly known as Plant 1, Plant 2 and the Flat Top building," O'Conner said. "Demolition is currently underway on Plant 2, with both sections of the building scheduled to be razed. The entire demolition process is expected to take approximately six months."
Other buildings on the site will remain, including the Whirlpool Distribution Warehouse, Insulation building, building B and C and the truck terminal, O'Conner said.
The plant's demolition is beginning just as the mayor and city council are expecting WSP, USA's presentation of its downtown redevelopment master plan, which is the result of a series of meetings held last year seeking input from city residents and officials regarding revitalizing the city's historic downtown.
The much-anticipated leveling of the structure will be one more step toward the city’s downtown transformation, which includes utilizing the site as a focal point for attracting patrons to downtown. Proposals for the site include construction of a sports complex or a music venue.
Brooks said the upcoming video presentation by WSP will enable city residents to envision the renewal that will take place.
“Having just recently received a new downtown redevelopment plan from WSP Consultants, the timing of this project is very advantageous," Brooks said. "It will truly allow everyone to see the potential of this very important part of our city.”
Brooks thanked Whirlpool for its continued dedication to Cleveland. In addition, he acknowledged the plant's history and role in employing Cleveland residents.
“I am grateful to hundreds of men and women who have worked in these downtown plants for over 100 years," Brooks said. "And I am grateful for the wonderful Whirlpool tradition of manufacturing excellence being carried on in their new facility which continues to be our largest employer in Cleveland."
Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Economic Development Doug Berry said he was pleased the demolition process had begun. Berry has said during speeches and presentations that razing the structures were central to spurring downtown revitalization.
"It's good to see everyone get serious about the role of the site," Berry said. "I'm glad the city and Whirlpool have merged goals and are moving forward."
Over the next six months, the Cleveland Daily Banner will provide continuing coverage of the historic demolition.
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