Haslams keep options open for Brook Park site

In Brook Park, the Forward Innovation Center-West may or may not be the site of a future Cleveland Browns stadium. But it would figure into the final destination of the stadium two sources said, potentially by allowing the United States Postal Service distribution facility near Downtown Cleveland to be relocated to here. A distribution center, the first structure on the site, is visible in the background (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Stadium or other long-term tenant possible


NEOtrans’ scoop last week that the owners of the Cleveland Browns are reportedly buying a 176-acre parcel in suburban Brook Park led to a flurry of discussion about what that means since the sources didn’t say why. The most obvious speculation is that the land is for a new stadium venue for home games for the National Football League franchise. But that may be only partly true. Instead, one option is to apparently use it as part of a land trade for a stadium.

The site, 18300 Snow Rd. and next to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, is likely to play at least an indirect role in determining the future site of a football stadium, according to two sources who spoke to NEOtrans on the condition of anonymity. The reason is the Browns owners, the Haslam Sports Group, are keeping their options open regarding the potential end-use of the Brook Park site that they are in the process of acquiring, the two sources said.

They noted it could indeed be used as a new site for a stadium. Or it could be used to secure a stadium site elsewhere.

The sources emphasized that the land itself could be used for a purpose other than a football stadium. While the size and accessibility of the site has led to speculation that it would be used only for a new stadium for the Cleveland Browns, the sources said a stadium is only one of the possible end uses for the site. It could be used for other long-term tenants instead, they said.

One of those sources said a long-term use to which Haslams could be entertaining is a relocated United States Postal Service processing and distribution center for Northeast Ohio. Once it and USPS’s smaller Cleveland delivery unit are relocated, it could free up more than 50 acres of highly accessible land for a near-downtown football stadium.

The United States Postal Service’s Northern Ohio District distribution and processing center is located near downtown Cleveland and has reportedly been considered by the owners of the Cleveland Browns as a potential stadium site (Google).

NEOtrans reported in 2022 that, early on in the search process, the Browns had considered the post office site along with another on the northeast side of downtown for building a new football stadium. The other source agreed that the post office site made sense in terms of the Haslams’ desire to keep option opens — as did a local stadium expert.

“I think it makes perfectly good sense to move the post office out to the airport, from a post office point of view and from a land use point of view,” said Tom Chema, president of Cleveland-based Gateway Consultants Group. More than three decades ago, he oversaw the public/private partnership that built the Gateway complex including the Progressive Field baseball park and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse basketball/hockey arena in downtown Cleveland.

“It doesn’t make good economic development sense to build a football stadium next to an auto plant and a distribution center. But if you build a football stadium where the post office is, it extends downtown,” Chema added. NEOtrans notes that Chema is not a source for this story.

The post office site is accessible by freeways from four directions — Interstate 71, Interstate 77 and the east-west Interstate 90. It is also next to all three of Greater Cleveland’s rapid transit rail lines — the east-west Red Line, plus the Blue and Green lines from Shaker Heights. But a post office spokesperson said they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

“There are no plans to move the facility,” said USPS Strategic Communications Specialist Naddia Dhalai.

The nearest rail station to the post office campus is about a quarter-mile away. The post office campus is next to a potential site for a 10,000-seat soccer stadium which is the subject of a $1 million allocation in the state’s proposed capital budget. It could be home to franchises for the National Women’s Soccer League, Major League Soccer Next developmental team, the National Premier Soccer League’s Cleveland Soccer Club, Cleveland State Vikings and area high schools.

An unofficial, conceptual diagram of what a Cleveland Browns football stadium could look like on the site of the Cleveland main post office plus supportive development and even a future 10,000-seat soccer stadium. It would require shifting Broadway Avenue closer to the Regional Transit Authority rapid transit tracks (Noah Belli).

And, the site is just uphill from railroad tracks that are proposed to be used for a Cleveland extension of the Akron-Independence Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. That extension is the subject of a study that officially got underway this week by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, global engineering firm AECOM and Chema’s Gateway Consultants Group.

Cleveland Browns Senior Vice President of Communications Peter John-Baptiste and Cleveland Press Secretary Marie Zickefoose did not respond to e-mails seeking comment for this article. But a written statement shared by John-Baptiste last week in response to NEOtrans’ article is consistent with the two sources’ information.

“We appreciate the collaborative process with the city of Cleveland and the leadership of Mayor (Justin) Bibb in analyzing the land bridge and renovating the current stadium,” John-Baptiste said. “At the same time, as part of our comprehensive planning efforts, we are also studying other potential stadium options in Northeast Ohio at various additional sites. There is still plenty of work to do and diligence to process before a long-term stadium solution is determined and will share further updates at the appropriate time.”

The Browns and the city have been working on what has been reported to be a $1 billion 50/50 public/private renovation of the 1999-built, 67,431-seat, city-owned Cleveland Browns Stadium on the downtown lakefront. The city is also moving forward on finalizing lakefront redevelopment plans that are heavy on public spaces and recreation and relatively light on for-profit, ballpark village-type uses from which the Haslams can generate more income than just 10 football games per year.

“Keeping the Browns at home on the downtown Cleveland lakefront is a priority for Mayor (Justin) Bibb and city leadership,” said city of Cleveland Chief of Staff Bradford Davy said in a written statement.

A northward-looking aerial view of the 176-acre portion of the 210-acre Forward Innovation Center-West in Brook Park. At far left is Cleveland Hopkins International Airport with Downtown Cleveland visible 9 miles away in the distance on Lake Erie (Google).

“We understand and respect how complex this process is and appreciate the partnership we’ve had and will continue to have with the Browns and Haslam Sports Group. The administration has developed a strong, thoughtful and comprehensive package that we believe respects taxpayers and protects the city’s general revenue fund while meeting the needs expressed by the team,” Davy added

Sources familiar with the negotiations have said the talks have not progressed significantly since last summer. Both of NEOtrans’ sources for this article acknowledged that the Haslams could use the Brook Park site as leverage in negotiations with the city of Cleveland. But they emphasized that this leverage would be used only after the Brook Park land is purchased.

That explains why city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County officials were unaware last week of the Haslams’ reported Brook Park purchase agreement until NEOtrans broke the story. A purchase agreement is reached between a property’s buyer and seller to hold the land while the buyer spends up to a year researching the property’s legal, geographic, geologic and environmental history. Sources have not informed NEOtrans when the reported purchase agreement was entered into.

Those two sources were contacted last week by NEOtrans after hearing from a third source about the pending purchase. The third source did not intentionally leak the information to NEOtrans. That source was unaware they were sharing the information with NEOtrans. The two confirming sources were very reluctant to discuss the matter publicly.

The sources’ information that the Haslams’ may potentially use the Brook Park site for long-term tenants is intriguing. It also indicates that the Brook Park site will be involved in determining the final landing spot for the Cleveland Browns Stadium either directly or indirectly.

Cleveland’s downtown lakefront vision, updated most recently in October, did not include design details for a renovated Cleveland Browns Stadium which dominates the waterfront setting (FO).

The Brook Park land is part of the nearly 210-acre Forward Innovation Center-West, formerly the site of two Ford Motor Company plants, and next to a third Ford plant that remains active. Forward Innovation Center-West is being redeveloped by a consortium — Weston, Inc. of Warrensville Heights, the DiGeronimo Cos. of Independence and Scannell Properties of Indianapolis, IN.

A 33-acre parcel was carved out for the first tenant of the business park — a roughly 360,000-square-foot Amazon distribution center. Amazon backed out of the project but the distribution center was built anyway about a year ago given the strong market for such facilities.

Sure enough, that new facility landed its first tenant Victory Packaging Inc. which leased 221,000 square feet in the first quarter of 2023. By comparison, the USPS Northern Ohio District’s processing and distribution center for Northeast Ohio located near downtown measures about 500,000 square feet.

At the western end of the USPS campus at 2200 Orange Ave. is the roughly 50,000-square-foot offices for the district and the 50,000-square-foot Cleveland delivery unit which distributes mail to addresses in the city of Cleveland. There is also a 21,000-square-foot USPS garage and servicing building.

Relocating USPS’s distribution center away from downtown Cleveland became less far-fetched two years ago when the postal service began using a 400,000-square-foot building that was part of the much larger General Motors-Chevrolet Transmission Plant, 5520 Chevrolet Blvd., Parma until 2011. The facility is used by USPS as an auxiliary distribution center during peak shipping times like Christmas.

In 2022, an affiliate of American Postal Infrastructure, based in the Chicago suburb of Oakbrook, bought the Chevrolet Boulevard building for $34 million, according to Cuyahoga County property records. That building is south of the main General Motors Metal Fabrication Division along Brookpark Road and 2.5 miles east of the Brook Park site the Haslams are reportedly buying.


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