Great Lakes Brewing Company may abandon its plans to build a production facility and tasting room on this vacant land on Scranton Peninsula in Cleveland’s Flats and instead build a consolidated facility in Avon next to Interstate 90 that also relocates its Strongsville canning plant. Company officials are reportedly ‘strongly considering’ the Avon site. Just beyond the vacant land, NRP Group’s The Peninsula apartments were rising in this October 2023 view (KJP). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.
Cleveland brewing, Strongsville canning plants may move
ARTICLE UPDATED DEC. 24, 2023
A Cleveland icon may not be in Cleveland much longer. Executives and owners of Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) are debating a significant relocation of most of its operations out to west-suburban Avon in Lorain County. The 200-employee company has been headquartered and its beer products brewed in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood since its founding 35 years ago. But Avon’s mayor said an announcement may be made about the potential new site “in the coming months.”
According to two sources who are familiar with the pending move and spoke to NEOtrans on the condition of anonymity, they emphasize that any move hasn’t been decided yet. Both sources said the company’s new leadership, headed by CEO Mark King who was brought on board in 2019, is interested in considering new location options that at least consolidate the company’s brewing and canning operations.
GLBC’s beer production is based in its space-constrained, 40,000-square-foot production plant at 1947 W. 28th St. in Ohio City. Its 2019-built, 67,000-square-foot canning plant is located 13675 Darice Parkway in Strongsville. The company’s headquarters are located above its brewpub and gift shop at 2516 Market Ave. in Ohio City, as well in the adjacent Gehring Building, 1958 W. 25 St.
The sources said King has issued a request for proposals to real estate developers to solicit ideas and cost data for building a 200,000-square-foot brewery and canning facility with a tasting room in a visible location along a busy highway. That site would reportedly consolidate GLBC’s Ohio City and Strongsville locations into the large, new building. It is not known if the company’s Ohio City headquarters and brewpub would move.
The proposed Avon location is the 17.5-acre former Connelly Landscaping Co. property at 34925 Chester Rd., at the southeast corner of Chester and Jaycox roads. The site, which has excellent visibility from Interstate 90, continues to be owned by the Connelly Family Limited Partnership, according to Lorain County property records. The landscaping business closed in the mid-2010s. King is “strongly considering” the Avon location, the sources said.
Great Lakes Brewing Company is reportedly interested in buying this 17.5-acre site at Chester and Jaycox roads in suburban Avon. The site is highly visible next to Interstate 90 and also accessible for trucks (Google).
An e-mail sent Dec. 20 by NEOtrans to GLBC’s media relations was acknowledged by an automatically generated e-mail later that same day but otherwise was not responded to prior to publication of this article.
However, a Cresco Real Estate for-sale sign that was displayed on the property earlier this year has since been removed, as have any public listings of the property being offered for sale or lease. Despite that, one of the brokers who was listed on that sign, Cresco Principal Rico A. Pietro, told NEOtrans in an e-mail the property hasn’t sold and remains available. As to whether GLBC is interested in the property, Pietro replied that he would be “Happy to chat after holidays about the site’s availability.”
Sometimes Pietro partners with his clients on their real estate deals, including to help disguise them. On Dec. 20, his company, RAP Commercial, RAP Green Realty Inc., received a recommendation from the Avon Planning Commission for a rezoning request for the land at 34925 Chester. The recommendation was made to City Council to rezone the land for an industrial classification that could permit a brewery and canning facility.
“There was a positive recommendation but no disclosure of who might use the property other than to say something may be announced in the coming months,” said Avon Mayor Bryan Jensen in a Dec. 24 e-mail to NEOtrans.
The two anonymous sources said King’s interest in that site and perhaps others near busy highways is influenced by the success of Fat Head’s Brewery which built in 2017 a 126,504-square-foot brewery and tasting room at 17450 Engle Lake Dr. The site is very visible as it is set next to Interstate 71 in suburban Middleburg Heights.
Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s production plant on West 28th Street in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood is too small for the company’s growing needs. The company planned to move it to Scranton Peninsula but now that site may not be adequate (Google).
Sources also said GLBC’s co-owners and founders Patrick and Daniel Conway may not fully agree with King’s interest in relocating GLBC’s facilities out of Cleveland. Instead, the sources say the owners, who are brothers, remain interested in moving forward with longstanding plans to relocate the brewing operation to Scranton Peninsula in Cleveland’s Flats.
“Not sure of their plans at this time,” said Chris Schmitt, interim executive director of Ohio City Inc., the neighborhood’s development corporation, in an e-mail to NEOtrans. “But I will say that GLBC is an iconic part of Cleveland and the Ohio City neighborhood and that we’ll do everything in our power to make sure they’re here for generations to come.”
Through two affiliates Carter Inland LLC and Carter River Front LLC, GLBC in 2018 bought four parcels of land — two each on both sides of Carter Road on Scranton Peninsula totaling nearly 10 acres. Earlier this year, Carter Inland LLC graded and leveled the land to prepare the site for development for construction of the brewery.
The building permit for grading 8 acres of land included an estimate that the preparatory work could cost about $650,000, according to city records. A final cost of the work is not known. A riverside tasting room was reportedly planned for the 1.9 acres of land owned by Carter River Front on the riverside of Carter Road. But no site prep work has been done there.
Just north of the proposed riverside tasting room, construction of the Silverhills at Thunderbird 300-unit apartments is underway alongside the BrewDog Cleveland brewpub that opened in late-2021. A luxury townhome development is planned by Lake Link LLC farther south along Carter, nearer to Columbus Road.
Great Lakes Brewing Company’s brewpub may stay on Market Street in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood but several other facilities may be candidates for moving to Avon. That reportedly includes the company’s Ohio City brewing plant and headquarters plus its new Strongsville canning operation (Google).
To the east, the Carter Inland property is bound by the unused Flats Industrial Railroad right of way. GLBC reportedly inquired about buying the railroad property so its Scranton Peninsula site could expand and accommodate a consolidation of GLBC’s offices, production and canning facilities all on the same site. But Flats Industrial Railroad reportedly wanted too much money, one of the two sources said.
A purchase price for GLBC’s Scranton Peninsula properties was not publicly disclosed. However, an adjacent property measuring 7.5 acres that was bought in 2022 for $7.5 million by Cleveland-based NRP Group, Cuyahoga County records show. On that land a 316-unit apartment development called The Peninsula is being constructed. The GLBC land along both sides of Carter was appraised by the county for tax purposes at just under $1.7 million total.
A local real estate insider who is familiar with Scranton Peninsula developments said he was not aware of any potential move under consideration by GLBC to abandon further development of the Flats site. Yet the insider said the rumor of their abandonment of that site “makes sense, given (that the) peninsula (is) likely more valuable as residential.”
In Ohio City’s Market District, an affiliate of GLBC in 2022 acquired the historic Gehring Building on West 25th Street for $2.24 million, county records show. The building, named after one of the city’s oldest breweries that stood at 2056 Gehring Street until it caught fire in 1935, holds some of GLBC’s corporate offices.
A source told NEOtrans last year that GLBC planned an expansion of its Ohio City brewpub from its building at 2516 Market into the ground floor of the Gehring, replacing the Chase Bank branch. That would give GLBC’s brewpub a desirable and visible presence on West 25th — right across the street from the West Side Market. But GLBC has made no moves apparently until it decides where its production facilities are going.
Map of Great Lakes Brewing Company facilities and nearby properties in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood (KJP/MyPlaceCuyahogaCounty.gov).
That same source along with another said GLBC’s existing Ohio City brewery is too small and cramped for the growing company. In February 2021, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) made a surprise inspection of Great Lakes’ production facilities in Ohio City. Inspectors cited Great Lakes for eight violations including for having confined work spaces without a permit and three for inadequate grain-handling facilities. OSHA proposed $31,600 in penalties but reduced them by settlements to $15,800, according to public records.
In the spring of 2022, Ohio City Inc. issued a request for interest in two West 26th parcels it owns, totaling 0.83-acres, immediately adjacent to GLBC’s production plant. The request invited developers’ ideas for potential uses of the site, now used as a parking lot, and their capacity for delivering it based on their track record. So far, nothing has officially come out of that request.
Although Ohio City Inc. never identified any of the respondents or their proposals, Tom McNair, then-executive director of Ohio City Inc. and now Mayor Justin Bibb’s economic development director, said GLBC was not a respondent. Furthermore, he said the development corporation didn’t want GLBC’s production facility to expand in the heart of busy urban neighborhood due to increased noise and truck traffic.
Two sources who spoke off the record said two of the respondents were Intro developer Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors of the Chicago area and My Place Group of Cleveland which is seeking to expand its mixed-use developments along Lorain Avenue. Another source said both developers remain interested in developing the Ohio City Inc. property as well as GLBC’s adjacent production facility property. Representatives of both developers declined to comment.
GLBC announced in October it expanded distribution into New York City, in partnership with S.K.I. Beer Distributors. While GLBC has served the state of New York for decades, the expansion into America’s largest city was a significant and strategic step to expand its distribution footprint. Ohio’s first microbrewery distributes 13 brands of year-round beers and even more seasonal varieties throughout the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.