Guardians suitor, real estate may not happen

Progressive Field, home of the baseball Cleveland Guardians, looms in the distance beyond Sumner Court and East 9th Street.

Looking west along Sumner Court toward East 9th Street and Progressive Field where the Cleveland Guardians play. The parking lot at left is one of the potential sites that could eventually become a spin-off development site following the ballpark’s renovations (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

HBSE considering other opportunities first

According to sources, there is a reason why NEOtrans first started hearing a lot about Bedrock-HBSE joint development near the Gateway sports complex, and then heard nothing. That void was filled by new activity surrounding Bedrock Real Estate’s interest in the riverfront below Tower City Center instead.

One real estate source close to HBSE, aka Harris-Blitzer Sports & Entertainment of Camden, NJ, and another close to the Cleveland Guardians have slightly differing takes on what is happening behind the scenes. But both say HBSE is not as “all-in” on acquiring a minority share of the Guardians baseball team as before. HBSE is owned by East Coast billionaires Josh Harris and David Blitzer. The Guardians are owned by Paul Dolan.

“HBSE is out,” says one source, referring to its interest in the Guardians. He said HBSE is instead trying to acquire another pro sports franchise. One is the Chelsea Football Club of West London in the English Premier League; that sale is to be decided this week. The other is the Denver Broncos of the USA’s National Football League which hopes to approve the buyer by the start of the regular season in September. But HBSE is not considered the frontrunner in either pursuit.

“While their deal isn’t done, the report of it being dead without interest anymore isn’t correct,” said the other source.

What Progressive Field could look like after its $435 million renovation starting this fall.

An artist’s rendering of the $435 million in planned renovations to Progressive Field that are due to start after the Cleveland Guardians’ season ends this fall (Guardians).

Spokespersons for both HBSE and the Guardians declined to comment on the rumors.

HBSE was reported to be pursuing a 35 percent minority share in the Guardians for $400 million that would put HBSE on a path to become majority owners of the Guardians in 2026. If that happens, HBSE would reportedly pursue real estate developments around Cleveland’s Gateway sports venues and in partnership with Bedrock. HBSE has developed real estate around its other major pro sports franchises — the Philadelphia 76ers basketball and New Jersey Devils hockey teams.

Even if HBSE will actively pursue the Guardians, should their interests in Chelsea or the Broncos fail to pan out, it may put Cleveland’s Gateway-area real estate developments on hold for at least several months. That may also explain why the Guardians have, so far, exercised only one property purchase option offered to them as part of their 15-years-plus lease extension with the the Gateway Economic Development Corporation of Greater Cleveland.

Gateway, which owns Progressive Field and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, offered to the Guardians a two-year window to buy an undeveloped half-acre parcel on East 9th, between Bolivar and Eagle Avenue for $2 million. That option was exercised by the Guardians last month. The other two-year option in the lease extension was for the Guardians to buy the 1,650-space Gateway East Garage, 650 Huron Rd., and its 3.3 acres of land for $25 million.

Future Cleveland Guardians development site on East 9th Street between Eagle Avenue and Bolivar Road.

The Cleveland Guardians exercised a lease option last month to acquire this tree-studded half-acre parcel on East 9th Street, between Eagle Avenue and Bolivar Road, for future development. The team has yet to exercise another lease option, which is to acquire the Gateway East Garage beyond the trees at left (Google).

A multi-year, $435 million plan to renovate Progressive Field is the Guardians’ priority right now — not a so-called ballpark village development. By exercising the option to acquire the half-acre parcel, Gateway conveyed its entire share of the half-acre property’s sale proceeds into a Ballpark Improvement Fund per terms of the lease deal. A Guardians spokesman said the team has no immediate plans to develop that parcel.

Purchasing the Gateway East Garage doesn’t significantly advance the Guardians’ efforts for Progressive Field’s renovation at this time. In the event the team purchases the Gateway East Garage, its sale proceeds will be used to fund the city’s annual $2 million commitment towards the Public’s Ballpark Contributions and shall assign future naming rights sale proceeds to the team.

Ultimately, whoever buys the Guardians’ minority share and puts themselves on a path to acquire a majority stake, may want to acquire the Gateway East Garage, demolish some or all of it, and develop the remainder. If so, that means building another, similarly large garage first, possibly as part of a megadevelopment on Stark Enterprises’ former nuCLEus development site at East 4th Street, Prospect Avenue and Huron Road.

Stark reportedly has an agreement to sell the 2.85-acre site to an unidentified buyer, but CEO Ezra Stark has denied it. A source said Bedrock is the buyer. A Bedrock spokesperson declined to comment on that as well as on reports that Bedrock is acquiring Sherwin-Williams’ to-be-vacated riverfront research center. That is just some of Bedrock’s recent activity regarding a potential megadevelopment on the Cuyahoga River waterfront which appears to be the Detroit-based firm’s immediate focus in Cleveland.


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