CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Now is the time to start planning what will take Whirlpool's place in South Cleveland when the company moves to its new plant, one city councilman says.
Cleveland City Councilman Richard Banks said Monday he will introduce a resolution when the council meets in two weeks to create a Southside Redevelopment Committee, including city and Bradley County representation, to help with the decision.
"We owe it to the Southside to get started on this," Banks said. "Whirlpool made a strong commitment to stay in Cleveland and Bradley County, but the Southside will be losing that a couple of years from now."
Whirlpool's current location on King Edward Avenue has been an industrial site for nearly a century, its 90 acres dominating much of the area. But the company is constructing a new plant at Benton Pike and Michigan Avenue for its 1,600 employees.
Production at the new plant is expected to start in early 2012.
Council members said they already are hearing ideas from the community about what to do with the old site.
"We need to keep an eye on the community. Their grocery store closed. The Kentucky Fried Chicken closed. We have to be concerned," said Councilman Avery Johnson.
Councilman Charlie McKenzie said the location should be considered as a potential school location.
Banks suggested that some of the sprawling site - which contains many large buildings - could be used as a community center. He said it could be called the Tom Rowland Civic Center, named after the current mayor who, at 19 years, has served in the position longer than any other person.
Bradley County commissioners also have been talking about how to help the neighborhood when the corporation moves.
Doug Berry, Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce's vice president for economic development, said the local Industrial Development Board plans to study some kind of redevelopment for the area.