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Strip District riverfront work goes on with Produce Terminal plans on hold

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 11:09 p.m.

A decision to delay redevelopment of the Strip District's Produce Terminal hasn't slowed development plans for 55 riverfront acres behind the 1,500-foot-long building, a developer said Wednesday.

“We're still on schedule with infrastructure work on the land that we own,” said Michael Kutzer, vice president for the Strip-based Buncher Co.

Buncher plans more than $400 million in office, retail and housing development. It acquired a $1.8 million option to buy the Urban Redevelopment Authority-owned Produce Terminal with plans to spend up to $25 million redeveloping the historic but crumbling building.

Buncher's plan to demolish about one-third of the Produce Terminal drew opposition from Mayor Bill Peduto and some preservationists. In an unusual deal reached in February, Buncher agreed to put the brakes on its plans for the Produce Terminal for up to six months while the city seeks alternative proposals from other developers.

Buncher's work continues at full speed.

Kutzer said the company expects to complete installing underground utilities by June or July. Then it will start paving a 3,700-foot road through the development area between 11th and 21st streets.

The site should be ready for building construction by the first or second quarter of next year, Kutzer said.

Kutzer said the company plans to start work on the site with construction of an office building near the Hampton Inn & Suites in the 1200 block of Smallman Street and an apartment building near the Produce Terminal.

Now, Kutzer said, “We'll prioritize the work based on what the decision is for the Produce Terminal,” declining to comment on the city's search for alternatives.

Three groups submitted proposals to redevelop the Produce Terminal: the Ferchill Group and MCM Co. Inc., both in Cleveland; a local group consisting of businessman Michael Rubino, Fourth River Development, Pfaffmann + Associates, Pennsylvania Commercial Real Estate Inc. and Market Ventures Inc.; and McCaffery Interests Inc. of Chicago.

MCM CEO Melissa Ferchill told the Tribune-Review last month it proposed spending $36 million to develop more than 200 rental apartments, a produce market, an art gallery, retail space and other amenities. It also would cut two holes in the building to provide vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian access to the riverfront — something Buncher intended to do by tearing down part of the building and extending 17th Street.

A spokeswoman for the Rubino group declined to provide details about its proposal.

Kevin Acklin, Peduto's chief of staff and chief development officer, said Wednesday he doesn't expect a decision on the Produce Terminal for at least a month. North Shore-based Fourth Economy Consulting is studying the proposals, he said.

For an alternative proposal to be selected, Acklin said, “One of the factors is that it would have to be complementary with what Buncher wants to do on its property.”

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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