Fairmont Creamery Builds its Future through Reuse of its Past

Creamery with Skylineby Rich Weiss

There is exciting progress to report at the Fairmont Creamery building as the renovation phase draws to a close, windows are installed, and Tremont prepares for the opening of the building’s commercial occupants in October…and then to welcome a host of new Tremonster residential tenants when they move in this November.

The Cleveland Fairmont Creamery building was originally developed in 1930 as a transportation hub and crucial anchor for the Fairmont Creamery Company, which distributed dairy products to the East Coast from Tremont.  In 1969, the property was abandoned after almost forty years of business for the Fairmont Creamery.  In 1985, South Shore Finishers began chromium and nickel plating operations in the basement and 1st floor of the building, ending a 16-year vacancy for the building.

The Fairmont Creamery project took off one day in 2012, after South Shore Finishers closed down, when Josh Rosen and Naomi Sabel took a walk through Tremont.  “We had just finished a pretty significant sized project in Oberlin and we were not sure whether we were going to do another project or not.  We were walking around Tremont, where I had lived for four years, and my partner, Naomi, pointed at the Fairmont Creamery from a distance and said, ‘What is this?’”  Rosen said, “It just so happened that an agent who was showing us around another property knew the existing owner and was able to get us a tour.  We liked the building for a number of reasons.  One, that you could park inside the structure, so you didn’t have to worry about parking concerns.  Second, we went on the roof and we saw that it had these great views of downtown.”

Tremont West Development Corporation (TWDC) had sought developers on and off for a number of years.  According to Cory Riordan, Executive Director of TWDC, “Once Josh and Naomi came to us with a proposal we worked with them to navigate the block club, city and funding process and additionally supported the development with a small pre-development grant through Finance Fund out of Columbus Ohio.”  Riordan added, “Josh, Naomi and Ben did monumental lifting to bring this development to fruition at record speed.”

The ambitious rehab of the brownfield site demonstrates reuse of over 106,000 square feet on five floors, now designed to Enterprise Green Communities and LEED criteria.

Sable broke down the financing of the project:  “Total projects costs are $15M, sourced from a combination of state and federal historic tax credits and new markets tax credits as well as traditional bank financing in addition to loans and grants from the State of Ohio, Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland.  Cleveland Development Advisors and Goldman Sachs provided the New Markets Tax Credits and the construction loan.”

Rosen is energized by the potential to link two neighborhoods.  Of the Creamery building site he said, “It was at a really interesting location in that, at least from my experience, you have all these exciting things happening in Tremont, you have all these exciting things happening in Ohio City, but the connections right now between the two neighborhoods aren’t that great, and the Creamery sat right in the middle of them in some ways and could potentially be a bridge…linking the two communities a little bit more – that, we thought, was really exciting.”

When asked what excited him most about the current phase of the development, Rosen said, “Seeing windows go in.  It’s pretty amazing.  It really has transformed the way the building looks, and we’ve talked for a long time about this sort of meshing of historic materials with modern materials, and to see an industrial yet modern window be put in this historic building, and seeing that kind of look come together has been pretty cool.”

Riordan is already seeing project benefits for Tremont:  “The Fairmont Creamery is a game changer for the Scranton Corridor.  It represents the first large-scale investment in the area in a generation and has already led to additional real estate investment.  Tremont West is proud to have worked with Josh, Naomi and Ben [Ezinga] of Sustainable Community Associates to realize their vision for the building in a way that was consistent with the interests of the neighborhood and block club and with the Strategic Plan of Tremont West.”  Riordan added, “This is the foundation of a long relationship with Sustainable Community Associates for the benefit of the neighborhood.”

Editor’s Note:  Look out for further coverage of Fairmont Creamery over the next two issues of The Tremonster, as commercial and residential occupants move in.


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