Citizens group calls for action on GE site

Editor’s Note: The following letter was written by Dennis Blank, co-founder of the Warren Expressed blog and gregg’s gardens, part of a community effort to repopulate the Garden District.

Ms. Maryrose Sylvester

President and CEO

GE Lighting Nela Park

1975 Noble Road

Cleveland, OH 44112

Dear Ms. Sylvester:

Several days ago, the Warren (Ohio) Tribune published an article about the unhappiness of many Warren residents regarding GE’s abandoned Warren properties and your response to date. I have enclosed a copy of the article.

While we appreciate that you have responded to our requests to leave these lots looking better than the prison yard-like condition they are in today, it must be said that simply removing the strands of barbed wire from the top of the chain link fence made little difference.

What remains is nearly two acres of hard-pan and weeds, plus an acre of chain link. The removed barbed wire represented less than 1 percent of the total surface area of this blight on Market Street – Warren’s main east-west thoroughfare.

According to a GE spokesperson quoted in the article, the property is wrapped in chain link to protect the asset for sale. Before writing today I spoke with a leading local commercial real estate broker and developer. He estimates the likelihood of GE selling the property in the next 10 years at no more than 2 percent. He further stated that because of the glut of similar properties in Warren, the realistic value of the property is zero. He explained:

”There are simply too many similar properties for sale. Look at the former Austin Village Plaza property just down the street. It is bigger and more useful in a number of ways and has been for sale for ten years or more without an offer. There are also comparable properties for sale that are owned or controlled by local governments. These would be given away at no cost, with tax breaks, to any business that brought us a few jobs.”

So this eyesore with which the community is now saddled may be with us for many years – decades even. We ask again that you meet with us for a civilized conversation to explore alternatives. This situation is very bad for us but it is also a potential lengthy public relations problem for GE.

I can promise you that we are reasonable people. There are no bomb-throwers or Trotskyites among us. This city thrived, and to a lessor extent continues to benefit, from the economic activities of major industrial corporations. We have nothing against GE. We’d all like nothing more than to have you come back to Warren to make things some day.

Let me also repeat what I told the Tribune: We very much appreciate the efforts GE has made to remove your unused buildings. The irony is that had we had a conversation prior to demolition there would probably be no protest in Warren today, because GE has obviously been willing to spend a great deal of money in remediation.

A small shift in how the money was spent could have left an asset in Warren while keeping GE’s option to sell unencumbered. We missed that opportunity, but a small additional amount spent today could still save GE money compared to 10 years of weed cutting and fence rental.

Thank you in advance for your consideration and we look forward to having a dialog soon.

Sincerely,

Dennis Blank