Cleveland’s Central neighborhood struggles from a high poverty rate and lack of jobs. To create more economic opportunities for city residents, The Cleveland Foundation created the Evergreen Cooperative Corporation. It later launched an Evergreen subsidiary called Green City Growers to build an urban greenhouse that would employ more than 40 worker-owners year-round to feed both neighbors and the local economy. To develop the greenhouse, The Cleveland Foundation hired Berusch Development Partners as a consultant. By then Russell Berusch had already worked in the Central neighborhood developing Central Commons and Arbor Park Place Shopping Center for Neighborhood Progress, Inc.
Assembling an infill site in excess of 10 acres by negotiating and executing a series of property purchase agreements in a short timeframe; setting a reliable project budget for the hydroponic greenhouse, which was then an unfamiliar building type in Cleveland; and creating a workable capital structure with a variety of financing vehicles and sources that included New Markets Tax Credits, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development brownfield redevelopment funds.
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Berusch acted as the project co-developer, working with Evergreen staff, the City of Cleveland, the local community development corporation, and other team members. It helped negotiate property purchase agreements with more than 20 landowners; selected, hired and supervised the architect and construction manager; and prepared project budgets. Berusch also negotiated and secured a $15 million New Markets Tax Credit allocation from PNC Bank.
The hydroponic greenhouse has opened and is growing herbs and vegetables. At full operation, the facility is expected to grow 3 million heads of lettuce and 300,000 pounds of herbs annually. Green City’s locally grown produce avoids the long distance hauling and high energy costs typically required to move produce from the western United States and Mexico to Cleveland.
Perhaps most important, in a community struggling with unemployment and underemployment, Green City will employ 42 workers who will benefit not just from farming skills, but from owning a percentage of the business in a cooperative ownership arrangement.