For the fourth straight week, work crews were laboring amid the 7.93 acres of parking lots owned by the Jacobs and Weston groups in downtown Cleveland’s Warehouse District. This is the site that sources say is Sherwin-Williams’ (SHW) favored site for building its massive new headquarters plus research and development (HQ+R&D) facilities.
But in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, crews were doing something different than before. In past weeks, they drilled holes in the parking lots to remove soil and ground water samples for lab analysis.
This past week, they were closing lanes to traffic on Superior Avenue, Frankfort Avenue, West 2nd Street, West 3rd Street and West 9th Street to improve water lines as well as to cut and remove patches of pavement over laterals. It prompted texts and e-mails from downtown residents and workers to NEOtrans, wondering if this was related to SHW’s HQ+R&D.
The answer is that it probably was not. Why?
The first, most obvious explanation is that the company (DRS Enterprisesof Garfield Heights) doing the work isn’t known for inspections and surveys. Their specialty is construction.
And the equipment that DRS used was construction equipment — a diamond-toothed pavement saw and a vacuum excavator with an 800-gallon tank, perfect for handling mud and other spoils from excavating and horizontal directional drilling. One of DRS’s specialties is horizontal drilling.
Then, the area in which they worked extended beyond the Jacobs/Weston lots. They started working right in the middle of the lots, at West 3rd Street and Frankfort Avenue. Crews fed hundreds of feet of plastic tubing into the sewers at West 3rd, over to West 2nd. Then they moved west to Superior and West 9th.
By the way, DRS crews who were working on site were asked what they were doing. They either pretended not to hear the question or they simply replied “Sewer repairs.”
|SHW reportedly favors putting its HQ+R&D facilities on the
Jacobs and Weston groups-owned parking lots west of Public
Square in downtown Cleveland (Google).
These sewers do need attention. This area was Cleveland’s first central business district so these sewers are some of the oldest in the city, dating back nearly 200 years. In older sewers, the storm and sanitary flows are combined in the same pipe.
It should also be noted that the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) is under a 2010 consent decree from the Environmental Protection Agency to significantly reduce combined (storm and sanitary) sewer overflows into Lake Erie within 25 years. Their $2.5 billion effort to achieve this is calledProject Clean Lake.
One of the projects to reduce the overflows is the Superior Stones Canal project. Using micro-tunneling, it features a new gravity sewer starting from a section of Superior Avenue between West 6th and West 9th to the expanded NEORSD pumping station at Settlers Landing on the Cuyahoga River. These improvements were completed in October 2018.
The contractor overseeing the work to increase the capacity of the sewers in the Flats and Warehouse District was Independence Excavating Inc., one of the many firms under the umbrella of the DiGeronimo Companies.
DiGeronimo also is developing the former Veterans Administration hospital site, called Valor Acres, in Brecksville. SHW’s reportedly asked the DiGeronimo family to compete for the new R&D facility at minimum and possibly for the new HQ as well.
Unknowingly, the DiGeronimo family aided SHW’s favored HQ+R&D site in the Warehouse District by expanding the capacity of NEORSD’s storm and sanitary sewers in that area. Such is life.
DRS’s work crews on Nov. 27 moved over to Superior Avenue, between West 6th and West 9th — the same area that was the terminus of the Superior Stones Canal project. That’s extending to more than a block away from the Jacobs/Weston lots.
|A clue that this week’s sewer work probably wasn’t related
to the SHW HQ+R&D project is because it extended farther
west along Superior Avenue to West 9th Street (KJP).
But, upstream from that project, the storm water collectors and sanitary sewer mains and laterals weren’t touched by NEORSD last year. They are the responsibility of the City of Cleveland’s Division of Water Pollution Control (WPC).
Jennifer Elting, NEORSD’s senior public information specialist, checked with construction supervisors who said that they had no crews, contractors or sub-contractors working in that area. When sent pictures of the work being done, the supervisors said the work likely involved re-lining of the city’s high-pressure water lines in the area.
WPC officials were not available for comment Nov. 29. On its Web site and Twitter feed, WPC didn’t report any work occurring in that area.
WPC’s sewers and water lines were in place when dozens more buildings stood on the Jacobs/Weston lots where only parking lots remain today. Only a handful of buildings have stood here in the past 50 years, however.
Less has been demanded of the sanitary sewers in the immediate area in recent decades, although the parking lots do create significant storm water runoff for NEORSD. There aren’t as many users of the city’s sanitary and potable water lines compared to the pre-World War II era.
SHW’s HQ+R&D, accommodating up to 6,000 employees, will put significant demands on the sanitary and water lines the Warehouse District. But Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack wasn’t aware of any linkages between the apparent re-lining of the water pipe and SHW.
The reasons there likely aren’t any linkages are that SHW hasn’t formally announced its location for its new SHW HQ+R&D facilities. And the city usually programs and budgets its sewer and water line improvement projects at least one year or more in advance.
|Sewer crews began their work this past week in the middle
of the Jacobs/Weston lots, at West 3rd Street and Frankfort
Avenue in the Warehouse District (Pete Marek).
But the city has wanted those parking lots developed for many years, so keeping its storm, sanitary and water lines in an active condition and in a state of good repair is important.
Although SHW hasn’t publicly announced its HQ+R&D site yet, several actions strongly suggest SHW is moving in the direction of building on the Jacobs/Weston lots. A title agency, reportedly on behalf of SHW, has filed disclosure permits with the city in November prior to buying the Weston lots.
That confirms reports from three high-level sources who say that SHW secured purchase agreements with the Jacobs and Weston groups in March for acquiring their Warehouse District properties. The sources said SHW then began looking to see if other sites in downtown Cleveland and Brecksville could offer a better location and financial deal for its 1.8-million-square-foot HQ+R&D.
No other sites were pursued by SHW but the Fortune 500 company listened to offers from other property owners and communities in other parts of Ohio and in other states. SHW continues to listen but city sources said SHW could make its HQ+R&D decision in December.
Throughout November, workers from several different companies have conducted geotechnical and groundwater analysis on the Jacobs and Weston lots. That is the kind of work that is done before significant structures are designed and built. Sources said facilities and construction management contractors requested the analyses on behalf of SHW.
Seeing the sewer/water workers in the same area in the past week rightfully generated curiosity as to whether it was in response to SHW’s HQ+R&D project. This was one case in the past month where it probably wasn’t. But it, along with the Superior Stones Canal project last year, supports future development on the scale of SHW’s proposed HQ+R&D facilities.