By Kevin Kelley
American Greetings announced March 26 that it has finalized its plans to move its world headquarters to Crocker Park in Westlake.
An expansion of retail and residential space at Crocker Park is planned in connection with the American Greetings move.
Construction work on the expansion of Crocker Park and related infrastructure work will begin in early April, the American Greetings press release stated. The new retail stores that are part of this phase of Crocker Park are expected to open in the summer of 2016. American Greetings’ construction of the American Greetings headquarters building, to be known as American Greetings Creative Studios, will begin in September 2014 with an anticipated completion date of spring 2016, the company’s statement said.
“Projects of this magnitude require foresight and tremendous partnership, and we want to thank all of those involved for making this project a reality,” Elie Weiss, president of American Greetings real estate, said in the statement.
In early February, Westlake City Council passed five ordinances related to the move of American Greetings and expansion of Crocker Park. Westlake is issuing $48.1 million in bonds to fund public improvements, including three parking garages and work on Crocker Road at an intersection near the American Greetings headquarters, to be built at the southern end of Crocker Park. Those bonds will be repaid by American Greetings and Crocker Park in the form of payments in lieu of property taxes. The city also obtained a $1 million road improvement grant from the state’s department of development to help pay for these public improvements.
In addition, the city has also obtained an $8.5 million loan, at 3 percent interest, from the state’s infrastructure bank to help pay for the infrastructure improvements. American Greetings and Stark Enterprises, owner and operator of Crocker Park, are kicking in an additional $7 million to costs associated with the issuance of the bonds.
As part of the agreement, American Greetings promises to employ 1,340 people in Westlake, with a payroll totaling $132 million annually. The card maker also agrees that its new, 600,000-square-foot headquarters will have a value of no less than $98 million, and retail space on the first floor of its headquarters complex will have a value of approximately $12.5 million.
Crocker Park agrees to construct additional retail space valued at no less than $26.5 million and commercial apartments valued at $34.5 million. The development also promises a payroll of 210 employees making a total of $6.54 million.
Stark Enterprises is also asking the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority to issue bonds to support the development of the northeast corner of Crocker Park, an area referred to as Block K. The bonds will be used to finance public infrastructure improvements – including underground utilities, driveways, surface parking areas, sidewalks and streetscaping improvements. The hotel, residential units and several restaurants planned for Block K are projected to add $22 million in property value to Crocker Park.
Brent Leslie, the port authority’s CFO, said the bond deal has not been finalized but expects it will be on the agenda of the agency’s April 17 meeting. The proposal is for the port authority to issue $6 million to $7 million in bonds, Leslie said.