By Kevin Kelley
The city of Westlake has been awarded a $1 million state roadwork development grant for the construction of a road into Crocker Park for the planned new corporate headquarters of American Greetings.
The approval of the grant was announced Thursday in a press release from state Rep. Nan Baker’s office.
The grant, given by the state’s Department of Development, will be used to construct a road off Crocker Road into the area of Crocker Park, where American Greetings will build its new headquarters. Money will also go toward intersection improvements such as traffic signals, according to Chris Bauer, economic development manager with the city of Westlake.
The $1 million state grant is part of $35-40 million the city plans to spend on infrastructure improvements associated with American Greetings’ move to Westlake. The improvements are pledged as part of a tax increment financing agreement between the city and the company, in which taxes American Greetings would have paid are used specifically by the city for the infrastructure improvements.
About $30 million of the total Westlake will spend will go toward building a parking deck, Bauer said. That means the $1 million state grant will fund a significant portion of the $10-15 million the city plans to spend on road construction and improvements, he added.
Legislation associated with the American Greetings move is currently before Westlake City Council. The city’s Planning Commission must also approve changes in Crocker Park’s development plans due to the company’s relocation.
The Westlake Board of Education unanimously gave its required approval to the tax increment financing agreement last month.
The city’s grant application notes that American Greetings had looked at moving its headquarters, and nearly 2,000 jobs, to Illinois. According to the application, American Greetings pledges at least 1,750 workers will be employed at its new headquarters.
“It’s to help keep American Greetings in the state,” Bauer said of the roadway grant money. “It’s very helpful in this development project.”
“The new infrastructure will provide needed access to the new headquarters building of American Greetings,” the grant application states. “This will support a multimillion dollar private investment in the city that will benefit the region and the state.”
The city’s grant application noted that American Greetings also considered moving its headquarters to Beachwood, Independence and Brecksville.
While American Greetings officials said they considered staying at its current location in Brooklyn, an income tax increase passed by that city’s voters spurred the company’s thoughts of relocating.
Brooklyn Mayor Richard Balbier told West Life Monday that he was not aware that the state had awarded Westlake $1 million to assist with the company’s relocation. He declined to comment on the grant award, saying his focus was on finding a tenant for the current American Greetings site.