Lakefront megasite – for housing or distribution hub?

The 62-acre former Lake Shore Power Plant property, now owned by a site clean-up firm, offers a significant lakefront development opportunity what with the $300 million Port of Cleveland-led and Cleveland Metroparks’ recreation area planned across Interstate 90, just east of downtown Cleveland. But it remains to be seen how the clean-up firm intends to reposition the old power plant site (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Buyer has aided distribution hubs, but evolving

A company that acquired a large piece of prime Cleveland lakefront land in December is a bit of an enigma if for no other reason because of its youth. This company, IDA Power LLC, is getting its hands on some very problematic yet high-potential properties around the country. It is engaged in a lengthy process of cleaning up those sites and turning them into productive properties again. But the company’s young life may give some insight into what we might expect here.

The Cleveland lakefront property in question is the former Energy Harbor Lake Shore Power Plant, 6800 S. Marginal Rd. This 62-acre site is just across I-90 from the Port of Cleveland’s and Cleveland Metroparks’ $300 million Cleveland Harbor Eastern Embayment Resilience Strategy, or CHEERS project. It is of roughly equal size to that of the vacated power plant property.

The most ambitious part of the CHEERS project is to use dredged sediment from the bottom of the lakefront’s harbor and Cuyahoga River to expand a lakefront recreation area over 20 years, including a new island in Lake Erie, just offshore from the former Lake Shore Power Station. The port initiated the project as a means to manage dredge material over the long-term.

The port proposed a co-development partnership approach with the Metroparks. As new land areas are created in phases, the metroparks will then develop the public amenities. Voters in 2022 provided a local share of funding for CHEERS by easily renewing Issue 5, a 10-year levy replacement for the Metroparks that’s generating up to $14 million more per year for the park district.

Given the location of the Lake Shore Power Plant site next to Lake Erie, Gordon Park and the CHEERS development, the nonprofit lakefront advocacy group Green Ribbon Coalition is urging that this site become a residential development with neighborhood shops and restaurants due to the proximity of the lake, and because it is only minutes away from Downtown Cleveland and University Circle.

Overhead view of the Lake Shore Power Plant site that was acquired by IDA in December 2023. The site is bounded by Interstate 90 to the north, the CSX railroad tracks to the south, East 55th Street to the west and East 72nd Street/Gordon Park to the east (Google).

The site is evocative of Humber Bay Shores in Toronto which was an industrial and logistics site next to the lakefront, ultimately developed in the 21st century with recreation and high-rise residential towers served by light-rail. Green Ribbon Coalition noted that the light-rail Waterfront Line ends just 2.5 miles away from Cleveland’s power plant site.

Housing here could be built somewhat vertically, as the height district zoning for the site is 115 feet — comparable to an 11-story building. Burke Lakefront Airport’s runway ends 1.4 miles away, Before it was imploded in 2017, the 106-year-old power plant had a 306-foot-tall smokestack and a 170-foot-tall boiler house.

There are no neighbors living nearby to complain about such a vertical development. An arts district is emerging in St. Clair-Superior’s old industrial buildings south of the railroad tracks including the Lighthouse ArtSpace, the Cleveland Play House Production Center, Ingenuity plus many smaller studios. Many nearby properties have changed hands recently, showing investor interest in the area.

The elevation of the power plant landscape is uneven. Along Interstate 90 at the northern border of the site near the lake, the elevation is a few feet either side of 580 feet above sea level, according to Google Earth. The railroad tracks at the southern border of the property are 625 feet above sea level. Midway between the two is a steep climb, including a small area of land 640 feet above sea level is just north of an 85,000-square-foot electrical substation on the site.

But IDA, or Industrial Development Advantage LLC, which is the parent company of IDA Power LLC, has issued no public statements yet about its former power plant site acquisitions in Ohio which also include ex-Energy Harbor properties in Eastlake and Oregon, OH, near Toledo. NEOtrans has been in communication with IDA President Steve Radel to arrange an interview but so far has been unable to get one.

The Cleveland Metroparks’ $300 million Cleveland Harbor Eastern Embayment Resilience Strategy (CHEERS) plan is in detailed design and permitting for expanded park land including an off-shore island (Metroparks).

In reviewing public records, media coverage and IDA’s web site, it turns out IDA’s experience isn’t in building residential. It’s not even in developing mixed-use. Instead, all but one of its redevelopment efforts, usually in partnership with others, have resulted in the construction of large distribution centers — Amazon hubs, United Parcel Service facilities, an IKEA logistics building and the like. That use for the Lake Shore Power Plant site doesn’t sit well with the Green Ribbon Coalition.

“There should be no further industrial or distribution center development in that area either on the bluffs overlooking the lake or between the bluffs and the lake, and we would aggressively oppose such developments,” said Dick Clough, executive board chairman of the Green Ribbon Coalition. “Building apartments and condos with supporting commercial development on the bluffs make sense. RTA should study the extension of the Waterfront Line to the area.”

“The city is aware of the transaction and has been in touch with IDA about their plans,” said the city of Cleveland’s Press Secretary Marie Zickefoose.

The lone exception to IDA’s most common redevelopment destiny is emerging at the 74-acre former Texaco refinery in Bayonne, NJ. It is proposed to be redeveloped into a 19-building movie, television and entertainment production complex called 1888 Studios.

The long shadows of high-rise towers is a new condition for Humber Bay Shores just west of Downtown Toronto. It was largely undeveloped until a light-rail line was extended through here in 2003. after which there was an explosion of residential construction next to an improved lakefront recreation area (Google).

The proposed new studios could accommodate up to 1.5 million square feet of space and 25,450 employees, according to plans approved by the city of Bayonne last year. While IDA cleaned the site, it doesn’t appear to be involved in developing the media production complex.

On the other side of Bayonne Peninsula, facing Brooklyn on the opposing shore of Bergen Neck, is the roughly 300-acre Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, or Marine Ocean Terminal and, before 1999, the Military Ocean Terminal. It is home to the Cape Liberty Cruise Port at the east or outer end of the 2-mile-long pier.

Since it is a new company, IDA only recently became involved in the one of the last parts of the ocean terminal’s remediation including the provision of 2 million tons of clean fill dirt for the eventual construction of the Lincoln Logistics distribution center, two United Parcel Service warehouses and a landscaped berm to separate them from housing built by others.

The housing was the result of efforts that began before the existence of IDA, going back to the 2000s. Those efforts produced several residential developments including Harbor Pointe, CitizenBayonne and Bayonne Bay, totaling more than 1,000 units. The developments are continuing, such as with the addition of a high-rise component of the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor.

Across the street from housing built in 2008-2019 on the former Marine Ocean Terminal pier in Bayonne, NJ, IDA delivered 2 million tons of clean fill dirt for the eventual construction of the Lincoln Logistics distribution center, two United Parcel Service warehouses and a landscaped berm to separate them from the housing that was built by others. IDA acquired the former Lake Shore Power Station site in Cleveland and it remains to be seen what if anything they may build there (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Other efforts by IDA also resulted in the development of distribution centers include the clean-up of U.S. Steel’s closed Fairless Plant in eastern Pennsylvania along the Delaware River, close to Trenton, NJ. And, IDA cleaned up a former Exxon/GATX oil storage terminal called Port Mobil in the Bloomfield section of Staten Island, NY, redeveloping it in partnership with others to build four distribution centers — three for Amazon and one for IKEA..

But in East Chicago, IN, IDA got involved in a project to demolish and clear the polluted West Calumet Housing Complex for a logistics, distribution and warehouse campus that would employ hundreds of workers. In 2016, more than 1,000 people were forced from the public housing complex after tests found high blood-lead levels in some children and some yards with lead levels more than 70 times the U.S. safety standard.

IDA has come a long way in a short time. According to state of New York records, IDA Power of Staten Island was formed only three years ago although it and its parent company IDA have principals who were in the site-turnaround business for much longer than that. But its acquisition of talent was not without controversy, resulting in recent legal dispute.

IDA Power‘s parent IDA was formed in 2016 and based in Ogden, Utah, near Salt Lake City. That company was created by Petersen Inc.’s principals and has its corporate address at Petersen’s main plant in Ogden. Peterson, founded in 1961 and acquired in 2022 by Precinmac of Maine, is a custom fabrication, precision machining, and manufacturing service.

Redevelopment of the huge 300-acre former Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne, NJ into the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor has been a 20-year undertaking so far. One of the most recent participants in its redevelopment is IDA which cleaned land for the construction of several large distribution centers. The housing at the left end of the partially cloud-obscured, 2-mile-long pier was mostly developed before IDA existed (Google).

After acquiring its manufacturing properties, Petersen leveraged that experience into a site-turnaround business — IDA, according to a review of its company filings and other public records. Its Utah headquarters also explains why a Salt Lake City-based law firm, Kirton McConkie, was hired to create the IDA affiliate in Ohio which acquired the Cleveland lakefront site.

“IDA Power, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of IDA, provides the power generation industry with plant divestiture and beneficial reuse solutions for retiring coal-fired power plants and their associated CCR (coal combustion residual) liabilities,” IDA says on its Web site. “IDA Power provides fixed-cost remediation and site-closure services, site demolition, environmental liability assumption, and redevelopment planning, providing clients with robust top-to-bottom solutions for the repositioning of retired or retiring coal-generating stations.”

As noted earlier, IDA cleaned up a former Exxon/GATX oil storage terminal called Port Mobil. But a competitor said they cleaned up in more ways than one. The project was started by a remediation company Staten Island Marine Development (SIMD) but finished by IDA after it hired away principals from SIMD. IDA noted on its Web site that “Several of our principals managed this project and then formed IDA.”

In 2020, SIMD filed suit against IDA, co-developer NorthPoint and property owner Kinder Morgan for conspiring to cut it out of the redevelopment project after they had reportedly gained proprietary information about the project. “Kinder secretly negotiated with other parties to displace SIMD after that valuable work by SIMD was completed,” the company wrote in its lawsuit filed in New York state court. The matter was settled out of court, public records show.


Subscribe to NEOtrans news

Stay informed about the latest local economic trends

Scroll to Top