Westinghouse, Blanket Mills conversions face adversity

Redeveloping old, vacant warehouses with new uses such as
residential or offices is often a drawn-out process that never
guarantees success. But persistent developers can eventually
deliver. This is the interior of the Westinghouse plant near
Edgewater Park (LoopNet). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE

Many of us don’t get to see the behind-the-scenes activity that developers go through in renovating old buildings. We get to see the work being done on the outside of buildings and, if we peer through the windows, we can see the construction work being done inside.

But we don’t see the arduous environmental analyses, the endless paperwork, the frequent meetings and, of course, the stumbles. If we did, many of us would probably have no desire to become a real estate developer — if not for the joy of seeing the finished product. And if he or she is lucky, a developer will deliver a finished product more than half of the times he or she tries.

So the situations involving the residential conversions of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co., 1200 W. 58th St., as well as the Northern Ohio Blanket Mills,?3160 W. 33rd St., offer some similarities. But they are at different stages of stumbling, er, development.

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Conversion of the 303,000-square-foot, mostly vacant Westinghouse plant next to the West Shoreway is apparently going to take longer and cost more than some originally had expected. And it may not be purchased and renovated at all by?Sustainable Community Associates as its principals?Josh Rosen, Naomi Sabel and Ben Ezinga likely had hoped.

The Westinghouse plant is probably best known for its land-
mark eight-story tower overlooking the West Shoreway. But
most of the plant’s?square footage is in lower buildings with
odd floor plans and possible environmental issues (Google).

That’s the rumor, according to a source. Attempts to seek comment from Rosen and his colleagues by e-mail and through instant messenger were not returned.

Jeff Ramsey, executive director at Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, said he also heard the rumor but hasn’t be able to confirm it with Rosen et al. That may suggest that Sustainable Community Associates isn’t yet ready to declare defeat.

News of this project was broken by NEOtrans last January.

A major issue, according to the source, is that the developer hasn’t identified a use for the lower-level buildings in the Westinghouse plant. By contrast, reusing the eight-story, 122-foot-tall, 112,000-square-foot, 1915-built tower as residential is a no-brainer.

But what to do with the low-level structures, measuring 191,000 square feet part and dating to 1882? Those are 1-3 stores tall, some with high, truss-supported ceilings and unconventional floor plans. A mere 50,000 square feet might be needed for indoor parking to support about 100 apartments that could fit in the tower.

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Part of the Westinghouse plant was demolished for a parking
lot for the newly built Edison apartments. But most of the rest
of the Westinghouse plant remains intact (LoopNet).

Using the remainder of the low-level structures for residential or offices could be very expensive. During the decades Westinghouse owned the plant, those structures were full of heavy machinery such as drop forges, foundries and presses as well as polishing, annealing and anodizing processes, according to a former employee. A lot of environmental remediation is probably required.

One thing is for certain, Westinghouse would be the largest redevelopment project, by far, undertaken by Sustainable Community Associates. Crain’s Cleveland Business reported in February that Midwest Development Partners joined forces on the project, likely to increase the endeavor’s access to capital.

By contrast, redevelopment of the Northern Ohio Blanket Mills in the Clark-Metro neighborhood appears to be moving forward after years of hopes and disappointments. Redevelopment of the 2.2-acre property, owned by Derek Ng, has been proposed for 10 years.

Part of the Northern Ohio Blanket Mills was redeveloped more
than a decade ago for the Lin Omni Center, at left, 3167 Fulton
Rd. The building in the center is the part that has redevelopment
plans pending with the City Planning Commission. At far right
is a portion of St. Rocco?Church (Google).

Now, a plan to redevelop the 120,000-square-foot woolen mill complex with more than 70 income-restricted apartments is moving through the city approvals process?at the City Planning Commission. If successful, Ng’s persistence will have paid off. That persistence may also inspire backers of the Westinghouse project.

The Northern Ohio Blanket Mills was listed in 2014 on the National Register of Historic Places because the factory was the largest manufacturer of?woolen horse blankets and carriage robes in the world.

It was founded by Herman Beckman Sr. in 1880 on West 33rd, then-called Pleasant Street. The original structure was destroyed by a fire in February 1888 but rebuilt just a year later. The factory was expanded in the 20th century as the company?diversified its woolen product lines.

The eastern portion of the Northern Ohio Blanket Mills, along
West 33rd Street, has been the subject of renovation plans for
a decade. But a persistent developer like Derek Ng can
eventually deliver a complicated project?(Google).

While further details of the current redevelopment effort are not available, Ng’s earlier plans included demolishing an 8,000-square-foot structure on the site. It also included a small commercial space on the ground floor of the former factory. Renovation costs are expected to be far less than that of the Westinghouse conversion, but rents will be less, too.

A portion of the factory was renovated more than a decade ago as the Lin Omni Center, 3167 Fulton Rd. In 1912, the Lin Omni was the last building built as part of the Northern Ohio Blanket Mill. St. Rocco Church is immediately south of the old factory. Ng also owns the 650,000-square-foot, vacant Richman Brothers factory, 1600 E. 55th St.

END