Spring Creek Development partner Tom Cate invited members of the Cleveland School Board of Education site committee Wednesday morning to view the building and get their reaction to the structure. He has not approached city or county officials about the idea.
He said reusing the American Uniform building could be an example of infill and redevelopment instead of urban sprawl. Redeveloping inside the city limits is one of the methods of dealing with expected growth from Volkswagen, Wacker Chemie and Whirlpool.
“What the city and county decide to do, I don’t know,” he said. “But it (infill and redevelopment) seems to be where they might be migrating to.”
He said reusing existing buildings versus building new structures is recommended by LEED as one of the most effective ways to reduce environmental impacts and for saving money. It saves the amount of debris added to the landfill when an existing building is torn down. It also saves fuel and pollution from transporting the demolished building to dump site.
In comparing the reuse of an existing building to a new structure, the replacement value of the materials used to form the existing building must be considered. For example, if the shell of an existing building was used, the cost of the foundation, the brick, and the steel roof structure by their reuse would be saved. The American Uniform building contains $12.266 million of material.
Cate serves on the joint planning committee studying the possibility of locating city and county planning, engineering, building, construction, electrical, plumbing departments under one roof. The former First Tennessee Bank location at Church and Inman streets in downtown Cleveland is another building under consideration for that purpose.
He said the American Uniform building is a quality structure and in good condition, though it is not the prettiest building in the world. The 280,000 square-foot building sets on approximately 14.4 acres.
Cate, who is a partner in developing Spring Creek on 25th Street said, “Selfishly, I see it would be a great benefit to Spring Creek because of people here who might live there. But, I think it has a great deal of potential if you buy into redevelopment of existing buildings, all the environmental positives of using existing versus new construction.”
The building is close to the central part of the city and he expects it to remain close to the center as growth occurs in all four directions.
“I have no ownership in this building,” he said.
The site is owned by businessman Nelson Bowers.
“It was part of a plan that never happened, so he’s here with it now,” Cate said. “He (Bowers) is open to anything and everything some entity might have. I don’t think he’s wanting to make a lot of money, if any money on it.”
Cate said Bowers is willing to invest in certain other steps if there is any interest in the structure.
“He’s willing to do a public-private development,” Cate said. “He’s willing to hire an architect to do additional renderings, cost projections and things like that based on what comes out of this or other meetings. I think Nelson has a lot on the table if you are just willing to slowdown and consider this as a viable option.”
He said state and federal grants could be available to reinvent the site.
State Rep. Kevin Brooks, who was present during the walk through of the building, said, “When the American Uniform project was brought to my attention as a potential site for a combined Cleveland City School facility, we contacted the (state) commissioner of economic development, department of education, as well as federal offices. The idea is to try to solicit fast track training funds, Race To The Top funds, or federal grants.”
The history of the building dates back to 1949. According to past newspaper reports, American Uniform was formed in Minneapolis in 1932, when Frank Miles, an industrial engineer, was asked by American Linen Supply Co. to establish the American Linen central manufacturing division.
In 1949, 17 years later, the manufacturing operation and 15 families were moved from Minnesota to Cleveland. That move enabled the company to modernize facilities, improve its labor situation, and place the manufacturing operation closer to its source of raw materials.
Several Southern cities were considered, including towns in Georgia, Alabama, as well as Tennessee.
Ultimately, Cleveland was chosen because it offered good access to transportation, good economic factors, and above all, a work force of experience, loyalty and outstanding work ethic.
In 1949, the firm moved into its new 32,500-square-foot Cleveland plant. In 1951, its flatwork plant was moved to Cleveland from Hampton, Ga. Over the years, expansions increased space to nearly 10 times the facility's original 1949 size.
When American Uniform celebrated its 50th anniversary in Cleveland, 300 people worked in the plant and produced 1,200-dozen garments, as well as 6,000-dozen pieces of flatwork each day. No other sewing plant in the world produced the variety of garment styles and flatwork that was available to customers of American Uniform.