Options weighed for Whirlpool site in Cleveland

Options weighed for Whirlpool site in Cleveland

October 26th, 2011 by Randall Higgins in News

Officials with Cleveland and Bradley County, Tenn., say now is the time to begin thinking about what will take Whirlpool's place in South Cleveland when the company moves to its new plant.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The city has many options to consider for the 113-acre site that will be left after Whirlpool moves to its new plant here, a Knoxville planner told the Southside Redevelopment Task Force.

Alvan Nance, executive director and CEO of Knoxville's Community Development Corp., spoke to task force members, including representatives of property owners and Whirlpool. The company is planning to move to a site at Benton Pike and Michigan Avenue by 2015.

Redevelopment projects can be as small as one lot or as big as an entire community, he said. There are many funding options, as well, ranging from grants and loans to developers or public/private partnerships, he said.

"I am not here to tell you to 'do it this way,'" Nance told the group meeting Monday at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.

From Knoxville's Market Square to its Mechanicsville community and the TVA towers, each project had its set of challenges and solutions, he said.

Knoxville's Community Development Corp. works through the city's public housing authority, he said. But Cleveland may choose differently.

"We started with Whirlpool's decision," said Doug Berry, the Chamber's vice president for economic development. But Cleveland may want to look beyond the century-old plant site's 113 acres to adjacent areas including Inman Street, he said.

Berry, in his former job as a Knoxville planner, worked with Nance on that city's redevelopment projects.

A common funding technique in Knoxville has been tax increment financing, Nance said. That process uses anticipated tax revenue from increased property values to subsidize development.

It is one way for the public to have a voice in the city's development, he said. But the objective, Nance said, is for the market to drive the redevelopment, whether commercial or residential.

Knoxville also has used its power of eminent domain to acquire some properties.

While the use of eminent domain can be controversial, in some cases in Knoxville it was the only way to clear titles and get loans for redevelopment, Nance said. He cited one property with 150 heirs, making it impossible to find a lender.

"It can be done in a friendly way with tax advantages to the owners," Nance said.

Cleveland's task force, led by Cleveland Utilities General Manager Tom Wheeler, recently was appointed by Mayor Tom Rowland. It includes city officials, Bradley County Commissioner Jeff Morelock and others with interests downtown.