December 8, 2014 [Janet H. Cho, The Plain Dealer]
Demolition crews from the Cuyahoga Land Bank are clearing the future home of Heinen’s Fine Foods’ $9 million expanded bakery, meat-cutting facility and prepared foods kitchens on South Miles Road in Warrensville Heights, just west of the 85-year-old grocer’s current warehouses.
Scheduled for completion in early 2016, the 70,000-square-foot food production facility will be more efficient than Heinen’s current buildings, enable the company to offer products it doesn’t have the space for now, and provide full-time jobs for another 20 to 25 people, in addition to the current 50 employees.
It will also enable the grocer to better supply its now 20 stores, including four in Greater Chicago, as well as its downtown Cleveland store opening next spring, and a Chagrin Falls store for which co-Presidents Jeff and Tom Heinen have signed a letter of intent.
The $610,000 demolition project, which includes tearing down a dilapidated 77,000-square-foot building, remediating asbestos on the site, and removing fences and debris, will go on for about another month or so. Heinen’s plans to buy the 5.1-acre site from the Land Bank. New construction will begin in the spring.
“The Cuyahoga Land Bank was instrumental in the acquisition and clean-up of this site, which is contiguous to our present warehouse,” said Heinen’s Director of Finance Daniel Musil, in a statement.
“This allows us to build our new food production plant, leverages the shipping and receiving infrastructure we currently have in place at our present warehouse facility and grants access to future potential expansion.The food production plant will be utilized to expand the wide array of meat, prepared food and bakery products, enhancing our selection for customers,” Musil added.
Warrensville Heights Mayor Brad Sellers said in the same statement that “The Heinen’s expansion project has been a top economic development priority that the City has been actively facilitating for a long time. Heinen’s 40-year history in Warrensville Heights and Northeast Ohio demonstrates their commitment to revitalizing the region.”
Heinen’s now has two warehouses across the street from each other in Warrensville Heights, including about 80,000 square feet of refrigerated space for dairy items and frozen foods, dating from about 1970.
The Cleveland Land Bank said efforts began two years ago, when Heinen’s asked the city for help buying the adjacent property to expand its warehouses. “I immediately reached out to the Cuyahoga County Department of Development and the Cuyahoga Land Bank for assistance,” said Warrensville Heights Economic Development Director Pequita Hansberry. The county development department and the Land Bank helped track down the owner of the vacant building and helped Heinens, the city and other parties acquire it.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank found out that the property had a $1 million lien on it, and was significantly behind on its taxes. It reached out to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office to foreclose on the property, and the Land Bank took over the title earlier this year. The county also gave Heinen’s a $500,000 loan toward the cost of the demolition.
“Because of a team effort between the County Development Department, the City of Warrensville Heights and the Cuyahoga Land Bank, we were able to provide Heinen’s the opportunity to expand in Warrensville Heights, bringing in new jobs and reducing blight,” said Cheryl Stephens, the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Director of Acquisitions, Dispositions and Development, in a statement.
The new space will create more space for Heinen’s custom-decorated cakes and pastries, and enable it to process larger quantities of beef and pork from its ranchers into the roasts, T-bone steaks and pork chops customers like, Musil said.
Heinen’s has in recent years expanded its selection of prepared and Grab-n-Go foods, from vegetable lasagnas to turkey meatloaf and chicken romano, and expects sales of those items to grow with its store expansion.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said: “The expansion of the Heinen’s food production plant will not only create additional jobs for our region, it will also make use of a blighted area that has been vacant for several years. I am delighted that we were able to collaborate successfully with several stakeholders to ensure that this project would become a reality and to keep a successful family-owned business here in Cuyahoga County.”