Great Lakes Brewing confirms relocation options

Great Lakes Brewing Company has been expanding its footprint in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood since it opened here in 1988. That includes acquiring the Gehring Building with the Chase Bank branch for its expanded offices and possibly a larger brewpub. But the growth of both the brewer and the neighborhood is prompting the craft brewer to look elsewhere for expansion (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

GLBC says Ohio City brewpub will stay put

In a statement issued today by Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC), their chief executive officer confirmed NEOtrans’ report from last week that it is considering relocating its production facilities from Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood and packaging facility in Strongsville to a site in Avon. The press statement also confirmed it hasn’t ruled out continuing with its plans to relocate them to Scranton Peninsula in Cleveland’s Flats. And it will retain its Ohio City brewpub and gift shop. More than 200 jobs are involved among all of GLBC’s facilities.

“GLBC confirms plans to continue operations at their historic Ohio City brewpub and gift shop indefinitely while assessing potential sites for a new consolidated production facility in the Greater Cleveland area,” the company noted in its press statement. NEOtrans reported last week that GLBC’s brewery, canning facility and offices may be on the move to a new 200,000-square-foot facility proposed on Chester Road next to Interstate 90 in Avon, according to two sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Due to space limitations and growth challenges within its urban footprint in Ohio City, GLBC added a 67,000 square foot canning facility in Strongsville in 2020. Those challenges with its 40,000-square-foot brewery at 1947 W. 28th St. in Ohio City included Occupational Safety & Health Administration violations and fines from 2021, most of which were due to the space constraints.

A goal of the exploring the possibility of a new facility is to consolidate all brewing and packaging operations under one roof, company officials said. The sources said King, who was brought on board to GLBC in 2019, is intrigued 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.

“For us to grow and consistently produce the highest quality beverages, a larger modernized operation is needed,” said GLBC CEO Mark King in the written statement. “Our current building is full of history and charm but limits us in terms of efficiency, output, and quality control. Having everything under one roof with more state-of-the-art amenities is vital for us to remain competitive and provide the safest, highest quality experience for our customers and staff. Our assessment of any potential build site must take all these factors into account.”

Great Lakes Brewing Company’s proposed site for its consolidated brewery, packaging operation and possibly its offices is the closed Connelly Landscaping Co. at Chester and Jaycox roads in Avon. The 17.5-acre site is also next to Interstate 90, thus accessible to trucks and highly visible (Google).

But GLBC’s owners, co-owners and founders Patrick and Daniel Conway may not fully agree with King’s interest in relocating GLBC to Avon. Sources said the Conway brothers are hesitant in moving the brewery and offices out of Cleveland. In 2018, GLBC affiliates acquired nearly 10 acres of land on Scranton Peninsula in Cleveland’s Flats.

Earlier this year, GLBC graded 8 acres of land on Carter Road to prepare the site for the construction of an expanded brewery. A tasting room was also considered for a 1.9-acre plot of riverside land on the other side of Carter. But, like Ohio City, Scranton Peninsula is rapidly developing with residential uses that may not coexist well with a light-industrial activity.

To the east of the GLBC-owned land on Scranton Peninsula is the unused Flats Industrial Railroad right of way. GLBC reportedly inquired about buying the railroad property so its Scranton Peninsula site could expand away from the new residential developments and accommodate a consolidation of GLBC’s offices, production and canning facilities all on the same site. But Flats Industrial Railroad apparently wanted too much money, a source said.

The written statement released today was silent on whether GLBC would also move its corporate offices from Ohio City, including from a newly acquired historic building fronting West 25th Street, across from the West Side Market. But a GLBC spokesperson acknowledged it could be on the move, too, despite the company’s recent investment in acquiring the Gehring Building, 1958 W. 25th.

“Regarding GLBC’s Ohio City offices, this decision is still pending as we determine our potential new location, so we are unable to confirm at this time,” said GLBC’s Brand Marketing Manager Marissa DeSantis in an e-mail to NEOtrans. She said the company will share updates as development progresses.

This 8-acre plot of land on Scranton Peninsula in Cleveland’s Flats was acquired in 2018 by an affiliate of Great Lakes Brewing Company and leveled earlier this year for development of a new brewery. This site hasn’t been rejected yet as the company continues to explore the Avon site (KJP).

An affiliate of GBLC last year spent $2.24 million to purchase the Gehring Building for an expansion of its offices as well as a possible expansion of the brewpub into the current location of the Chase Bank branch that fronts West 25th. The acquisition was intended to give both the offices and the brewpub more visibility, according to one of the two sources.

However, there are strong indications that GLBC is leaning toward the Avon site. The two sources said the site is the 17.5-acre former Connelly Landscaping Co. property at 34925 Chester Rd., at the southeast corner of Chester and Jaycox roads and has visibility from I-90. The landscaping business closed in the mid-2010s.

A public for-sale listing for that site was recently removed by its brokerage Cresco Real Estate as was a for-sale sign set on the property earlier this year. One of Cresco’s brokers who was listed on that sign, Cresco Principal Rico A. Pietro, told NEOtrans in an e-mail last week that the property 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.”

On Dec. 20, Pietro’s company, RAP Commercial, RAP Green Realty Inc., requested 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 consolidated 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.

Great Lakes Brewing Company officials emphasize that they have no plans to close its brewpub and neighboring gift shop on Market Avenue in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. The offices above them and the brewery behind are on the table for relocation, however (Google).

Pam Fechter, the city’s economic development & planning coordinator, said in an e-mail to NEOtrans today that the applicants — Pietro and Cresco Senior Vice President George Pofok — described the project as “a light-industrial user” at the Dec. 20 Avon Planning Commission meeting. They declined to identify their client, she said.

“At this time, they have not disclosed the end user, only that they have a potential client and are doing their due diligence,” Fechter said.

The company said its brewery’s expansion plans prioritize maintaining a strong hometown presence, keeping production in the Greater Cleveland area and continuing operation of its iconic Ohio City brewpub and gift shop, which have served the neighborhood since 1988. Despite its limited footprint, GLBC was the 18th largest independent U.S. craft brewery by volume in 2022.

“Not sure of their plans at this time,” said Chris Schmitt, interim executive director of Ohio City Inc., the neighborhood’s development corporation. “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.”

“We understand what our brewpub means to Ohio City and there’s a mutual appreciation, so closing the brewpub has not been considered,” King said. “We want to keep this special place running and serve our guests here for as long as we are able, while providing new, quality, and innovative products and experiences to even more consumers in a new production facility for years to come.”


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