Open to opportunity: the corridor attracts the first wave of development

Half a dozen projects are slated to see the light of day along the Opportunity Corridor next year, stretching from 55th Street East to the edge of University Circle.

The 3-mile boulevard, which connects Interstate 490 to Cleveland’s second-largest employment hub, opened in November. It crosses the urban prairie and passes industrial remnants, factories abandoned as employers and blue-collar workers escaped in a half-century of decline.

As the Ohio Department of Transportation orchestrated the $ 257 million infrastructure project – the product of decades of talks and six years of construction – the city and local nonprofits have quietly raised money. adjacent lands. Now the developers are considering some of these sites and private properties for warehouses, business parks and apartment buildings.

“I think it’s a really untold story. In a lot of ways people don’t really know this work is going on,” said William Willis, director of economic development at Burten, Bell, Carr Development Inc., a nonprofit group that serves a large expanse of the East Side.

The community development corporation was instrumental in purchasing properties near 75th East and 79th East, in an area known as the Main Employment Area. This footprint is where developer Weston Inc. plans to erect a 156,775 square foot cold store to meet growing demand from food producers and distributors.

Two additional projects – the city’s new police headquarters and a construction training school – are planned for neighboring blocks. Last week, city officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the $ 107 million police complex, which is slated to open in 2026.

Across the street, a sign in front of the Orlando Baking Co. headquarters and production plant on Grand Avenue sounds “Opportunity on the Corridor”: 30 vacancies in a family business that employs 336 people , nearly half of whom are city residents.

When the company moved to the Kinsman neighborhood in 1979, Orlando was believed to be a catalyst for the development of Cleveland’s so-called “forgotten triangle”. More than 40 years later, the market finally seems ripe for John Anthony Orlando, President and CEO.

“I really think the Opportunity Corridor is going to give people accessibility in our place now. It’s easy to get to. Just having that road in front, it also seems to be safer,” he said. declared.

An Orlando subsidiary will operate the new cold storage facility. And the family is entertaining the idea of ​​opening an artisan bakery next door on retail land as part of the plan for the city’s 79th Street East. The company also has a property east of its headquarters, where an expansion could take three to five years.

Even boosters recognize that the corridor is not a panacea. A new road will not change the landscape overnight in neighborhoods struggling with poverty, ill health and crime.

“I understand. This is always going to be controversial,” said Deb Janik, senior vice president of major projects and real estate development at the Greater Cleveland Partnership.

“But now we have a chance to reconnect these neighborhoods to the interstate system,” she said. “It has connected the two biggest economic engines in our community, which are downtown Cleveland and University Circle. … And while this isn’t a perfect reset, as nothing is ever perfect, it gives us a chance as a community to reinvest in these neighborhoods – and to find solutions over the next 10-20 years.

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