The sale of the former Ford stamping plant in Walton Hills, in the works for much of 2021, has been finalized.
Its new owners are in the process of redeveloping a former auto plant in Brook Park, and two of them over the past decade have redeveloped a former Chrysler plant in Twinsburg.
Ford Motor Co. has sold the property at 7845 Northfield Road, just north of the Summit County line in Cuyahoga County, to local firms Weston Inc. and DiGeronimo Cos., and Indianapolis-based Scannell Properties. Scannell managing director Tim Elam said the deal was closed Tuesday but did not have a sales figure.
The 111-acre property, which as of Thursday was still listed as being under Ford ownership, is valued at $8.8 million, with the 2.1 million square-foot warehouse accounting for $2.3 million of the total appraised value, according to Cuyahoga County fiscal office data.
In addition to purchasing the Walton Hills Plant, the three partners in 2021 purchased the former Ford engine plant in Brook Park for $31.5 million.
The Brook Park property is next to Cleveland Hopkins Airport, as well as Interstates 71 and 480. It is being repurposed as the 210-acre Forward Innovation Center, with the companies citing its proximity to the Port of Cleveland on Lake Erie, the airport and highways.
Elam said the 2.2 million square foot Brook Park factory has been demolished.
“The building itself is all down and we’re sorting and clearing the scrap,” he said.
The village of Walton Hills announced the Northfield Road property’s sale Tuesday on its website.
In the announcement, Mayor Don Kolograf stated village officials are excited the sale has closed.
“The village is a major step closer to having a productive site with more job opportunities here in Walton Hills and Northeast Ohio. We look forward to working with the new owners,” he added.
In its May newsletter, the village announced it had received preliminary findings of a pre-sale Ohio EPA assessment of the property. In subsequent months, the village reported it was working with Ford and the new owners on the property’s purchase.
Elam said Thursday the building will likely be razed, but it is possible that a manufacturing firm could repurpose part of the structure.
“If the building would work, we’ll keep it up,” he said, “There’s some brownfield aspects that need to be cleaned up.”
Elam said the development will likely be similar to the Cornerstone Business Park in Twinsburg, where redevelopment began in 2011.
“I really think it’s going to be focused on a mix of manufacturing, high-tech companies and then warehouse-logistic companies. Potentially we might get corporate offices attached to manufacturing,” he said, adding no deals with potential tenants have been finalized at this point.
“I think it’s going to work a lot like Cornerstone. It’s probably a 10-year redevelopment plan,” he said. “I think it’s going to be great, there are going to be a lot of jobs, a new tax base. It’s good for the community.
Former auto plants repurposed
Purchase of the Walton Hills facility, which shut down in 2014, follows the 2010 closure of and bankruptcy sale of the former Chrysler stamping plant about 4 miles away on Route 82 in Twinsburg.
Scannell Properties and DiGeronimo Cos. also own the former Chrysler property, which was purchased $45.5 million at a bankruptcy auction and rechristened the Cornerstone Business Park. Hundreds of people now work there.
The former 1.8 million square-foot stamping plant was razed 10 years ago and the final phase of the property’s development was approved by Twinsburg officials in late 2020.
The business park is now home to FedEx (303,000 square feet) and Amazon (248,000 square feet) distribution facilities. Lowe’s, the home improvement retailer, has leased the remaining 180,000 square feet of space in the second-to-last building in the park.
The last phase, a 279,000 square foot building, is now nearing completion.
“Its the last building in that park. Ten years ago, we bought that park and now we’re basically fully leased up,” Elam said.
Long industrial history
The village of Walton Hills offers a detailed history of the Ford plant, which was a backbone of the local economy for more than 60 years.
After its ground-breaking in 1953, production began the next year, with many of the workers having moved to the area from Pennsylvania, West Virginia Kentucky and Tennessee, according to Bob and Jean Kainsinger, whose essay “Our Walton Hills Ford Years” is part of the history. They said many were former mine workers who were happy to join the United Auto Workers Local 420.
They reported several hundred applicants lined up before the plant opened, and that residents had been asked to offer rooms to construction workers. The demand for housing at what was called the “Cleveland Stamping Plant” until 1982 eventually led to residential developments in nearby communities including Walton Hills, Bedford, Macedonia and Northfield Village.
After opening with 1.4 million square feet, the plant underwent five expansions, topping out at 2.2 million square feet. At its peak in the early 1960s, more than 5,000 workers were employed. That number dropped to around 900 by 2005 and only a few hundred by the time it closed for good.
Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @MarottaEric.