By Kevin Kelley
Executives and employees from American Greetings joined city officials in celebrating the move of the greeting card company to Crocker Park at a ceremony there Aug. 27.
Although the land at the southern end of Crocker Park had long been cleared for the project, Mayor Dennis Clough, other city officials and American Greeting executives donned hard hats and picked up shovels for a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony on a stage where the company’s world headquarters will be located. The anticipated completion date for the headquarters is spring 2016.
“Not only is this a milestone in the corporate history of American Greetings, but it will become part of Westlake’s history as well,” Clough said in remarks that preceded the ceremonial groundbreaking. “I believe that (American Greetings’) success will also mean long-term sustainability and a bright future for Westlake and more importantly, the entire Cleveland area.”
Now headquartered in Brooklyn, company officials indicated they had considered moving their headquarters to Beachwood, Independence and Brecksville, as well as to Illinois.
An income tax increase passed by the voters of Brooklyn spurred the company’s thoughts of relocating.
Clough said American Greetings’ announcement that it would stay in Northeast Ohio has encouraged other businesses to invest in the region.
“Once completed, this headquarters will not only become a signature building at Crocker Park, but most of all will be an inviting environment for the many employees, officers and visitors that make up the highly prosperous operations of American Greetings,” the Westlake mayor said.
City Council President Mike Killeen said that a corporate headquarters building was not considered when Crocker Park was originally proposed. However, city officials, American Greetings executives and Stark Enterprises, the owner-operator of Crocker Park, all worked together to overcome obstacles that led to the company’s move.
Clough and Killeen presented American Greetings Chairman Morry Weiss with a giant greeting card welcoming the company to their city.
American Greeting employees celebrated the coming move in a giant tent with a picnic that included hamburgers, hot dogs, Italian meatballs and other food.
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 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.