The flyer, written as an information handout by an unknown author, states homes in the area around 18th Street S.E., between King Edward Avenue S.E. and Wildwood Avenue S.E. are targeted for demolition and redevelopment.
“That’s crazy,” said Cleveland Planning Director Greg Thomas. It would make no sense for the city to move into a neighborhood and force everyone out.
“It’s not true that we’re going to take people’s property. What is true is there will be a redevelopment of that Whirlpool site at the right time. It’s a large site. There will be a lot of change in that area.
“What I would anticipate is more infill type development — housing in that area with maybe some housing rehab.”
Some privately funded housing rehabilitation is occurring now, but other (public) rehab programs might be looked at in the future. However, that depends on needs identified by neighbors in the area and ongoing code enforcement.
“There are some rundown properties in the neighborhood. They are a source of complaint by neighbors and those neighbors have an expectation something will be done about it,” he said.
“I think that kind of thing will happen going forward, but as far as the city going in and taking a whole bunch of houses away from people and them having to move — that would be crazy.”
Thomas said some families have lived and owned homes in the neighborhood for several generations and new families are moving in and establishing their own traditions.
“There are new people coming in there too and doing the same thing, I’ve talked to them,” Thomas said. “They buy a house, fix it up and live there. That’s exactly what you would hope would happen in any neighborhood.”
He said there is not a goal to make people relocate because it just would not make any sense.
“Another thing, there would be no money to do it anyway,” Thomas said. “I’m sorry this thing got handed out. It was anonymous and I hate that it happened because it frightened people unnecessarily.
“I’d be concerned if I got something like that and I understand that, but it’s full of a lot of half-truths and you know what they say: A half-truth and a half-truth equals a whole lie.”
Thomas said the silver lining in the incident is people did call him as the handout suggested.
“They’re interested in the neighborhood. They’re clearly interested in what goes on around them. I’m glad they called. We had a talk and I look forward to working with the neighborhood as we move forward in the planning process,” he said.
There is a lot to do, because the redevelopment of a large industrial area involves declaring it as a brownfield site. The very structure of that type of development requires neighborhood participation.
“The bottom-line answer is the city is not going to run in and take anybody’s property,” he said.
According to past reports, Whirlpool is expected to fully vacate the 92 acres in downtown by 2015, which leaves about 2 ½ to three years left to discuss future uses of the vacated Whirlpool site in downtown Cleveland.
According to past conversations with Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Economic Development, the land includes three distinct plant sites.
In those three sites, there are 11 different floor elevations, which renders the property unsuitable for future manufacturing applications since most companies desire to be on one level.
He said the old plant was so widely spread that some parts traveled seven miles before they became an assembled stove. That was one of the reasons for moving to the new facility on Benton Pike.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland established the Southside Redevelopment Task Force in 2011 to help lead the discussion and decision-making process, because he realized then the biggest issue facing the city was raising public awareness and participation.
That was also the consensus of the task force members who recognized that before redevelopment could occur, there was a need to establish a connection with adjoining neighborhoods.
Berry, who was involved in the redevelopment of downtown Knoxville, said if the city takes advantage of tax credits, the use of property along the Woolen Mill Branch of Mouse Creek will require very specific redevelopment goals.
“Public input is required under redevelopment laws,” Berry said.
The flyer also mentioned Tax Increment Financing, a mechanism that might help fund the redevelopment. TIF allows the use of increased property tax revenue generated by the increased assessed value that results from new investments in the designated area. The revenue could be used to pay for infrastructure or other improvements within the designated area.
The bill authorizes an industrial development corporation to prepare and submit an economic impact plan with respect to an urban brownfield.
A brownfield is defined as abandoned, idled or underutilized industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment are complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.