TWINSBURG: One might expect the sight of the former Chrysler Stamping Plant being reduced to rubble to be painful for city Planning Director Larry Finch.
When the carmaker announced in 2009 it was closing the factory, putting more than 1,200 employees out of work and reducing the city’s tax revenue by 13 percent, the news was nothing less than catastrophic, Finch said. The company had deep roots in the community, supporting up to 4,000 families in its heyday.
But the grieving is behind him, and with the Chamberlin Road property in the hands of well-respected real-estate companies, Finch said he can finally appreciate the property for what it now is — a blank canvas offering 120 acres of prime industrial space in a city that was quickly running out of room for development. About 80 acres of available space are scattered around town, with no parcel bigger than 30 acres.
“That’s the future of the City of Twinsburg right there,” Finch said.
Demolition crews have been taking 1.4 million square feet of the plant down at the rate of 100,000 square feet a week. Finch estimates that three-fourths of their work is done.
“It’s amazing how big this is,” he said as he looked over the largely flattened property, the size of a small neighborhood. “You really couldn’t tell when the buildings were up.”
Bucket cranes are sorting the debris. Steel and other metals can be recycled and concrete can be pulverized and used for road base. The rest is destined for a landfill.
But even as walls are coming down, other walls are going up.
New home for Vistar
Amidst the demolition is a newly laid foundation where construction crews are erecting a 137,000-square-foot home for Vistar, a local company that was shopping for a new facility.
After the city offered it a 50 percent, 10-year tax abatement, the vending-food distributor decided to stay in town and add 10 jobs to its force of 65 over the next three years. The company could be ready to move from its Dutton Drive base by next fall.
Seeing Vistar’s new building go up is a shot in the arm for a community anxious for the Chrysler property to be reborn.
“It shows progress,” Finch said.
Not all of the old Chrysler campus is coming down. At least, not yet.
In addition to the 120 acres of reclaimed ground, about 800,000-square-feet of building is being preserved, prized for its 42-foot-high ceilings and cranes that can lift 75 tons.
Still, while that building could appeal to a “special purpose market,” it could come down if no tenants come forward, said Terry Coyne, vice president of Grubb & Ellis, the commercial brokerage company that is marketing the property.
“We don’t know the fate of the high bay,” Coyne said, referring to the building. “We love it, but as wonderful as it is, the market may not support it.”
Bringing it down would free another 40-plus acres for construction.
Coyne said there are ongoing talks with six companies about the former Chrysler property, which has been dubbed Cornerstone Business Park. Coyne said Mayor Katherine Procop picked the name “because it was the cornerstone of the city and will be again.”
Most of the interest is coming from manufacturers which value the site’s location between two highways.
“Maybe it’s the karma of the site,” Coyne said.
Finch said it’s realistic that Cornerstone one day will support more than 3,000 jobs again.
The property is owned by Independence-based developer DiGeronimo Cos. and Scannell Properties of Indianapolis, which bought the land and buildings this summer from Maynards Industries Ltd., a Canadian liquidation company.
Last year, Maynards bought the plant from Chrysler for $45.5 million to sell the equipment. Finch said the old presses have been scattered around the world, from Canada and Mexico to India and Japan. He said foreign visitors are still on the property taking apart their purchases.
DeGeronimo and Scannell intend to retain ownership of the property and lease it to businesses, although they will consider favorable offers to buy, Finch said.
“Fortunately for us, when we found out DeGeronimo was involved, it gave us a sense of ease because they are well-recognized in the area and they and Scannell have a good reputation and a lot of history and experience,” Finch said.
The city is hoping to land some help with the property’s transformation. The state will decide in February whether to recognize it as an Ohio Job Ready Site and provide funding for road, utility and other infrastructure needs.
The city is also applying for up to $3 million from the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund for soil remediation. The environmental impact of having a car manufacturer on the property for half a century is still under study.
Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.