November 14, 2023
Will GE’s Nela Park Soon be Redeveloped with Apartments?
The former home of GE Lighting was sold for a bag of magic beans and may soon be home to Cleveland residents
In East Cleveland, the sprawling Nela Park campus, formerly the headquarters of GE Lighting, was acquired for $5 million last year. Wisconsin-based Phoenix Investors paid this amount in May 2022 for the property, which is notably recognized as the first industrial park in the world and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. This $5 million sum, while substantial, is equivalent to the cost of a high-end two-bedroom apartment in Midtown Manhattan today. The entire campus in East Cleveland sold for just $53,200 per acre, and includes all 26 buildings.
And now, under new ownership, the campus at 1975 Noble Road may soon undergo a significant transformation. The 94-acre campus is poised for a potential conversion of several office buildings into residential apartments. This development, still in the planning stages, could be announced at a local stakeholders meeting as early as this month, according to NeoTrans Blog, a media site that has covered the Greater Cleveland region’s economic, development, real estate, construction and transportation news since 2011.
The campus, which spans over a century once bustled with over 1,000 GE employees amidst more than 26 buildings and 1 million square feet of space, interconnected by a network of tunnels initially serving as utility conduits.
Despite Phoenix Investors' typical focus on rejuvenating commercial properties for industrial and new commercial uses, their marketing materials suggest a shift toward residential repurposing for Nela Park. Currently, only three buildings on the campus, totaling about 182,000 square feet, are tenanted, reflecting a depressed office market in East Cleveland, possibly influenced by the rise in remote working. according to NeoTrans.
Also according to NeoTrans, the proposed residential conversion includes Building 321, the largest structure at 61,120 square feet, which formed part of GE Lighting's corporate office. Building 307, opened in 1913 as the first structure at Nela Park, and Building 331, a former lab, are also considered for this transition. However, the smaller Building 331 might be repurposed as a residential amenity space, offering community rooms, fitness centers, or storage facilities.
Historically, Nela Park's importance dates back to the late 19th century, aligning with Cleveland's innovation in electric street lighting and the development of electric light bulbs. Several structures within the park have undergone renovations in the past 25 years, some utilizing federal historic preservation tax credits. These include two of the three buildings now considered for residential conversion.
Currently, GE Lighting, acquired by Savant Systems, Inc., in July 2020, maintains a partial presence at Nela Park with around 200 employees. In contrast, Current, relocated from Nela Park to Beachwood last year, and has since declared Greenville, South Carolina as its new headquarters.
The proposed transformation of Nela Park from a business hub to a more modern campus that includes residential housing reflects broader shifts in property usage and urban development. It represents a significant chapter in the site's storied history, from its inception as a pioneering industrial park to a potential vibrant residential community that will feel much different than the world’s first industrial park.