A national real estate developer plans to revitalize the IX Center to bring consumer shows back into the gated Cleveland venue while marketing much of the complex as industrial space.
Industrial Realty Group LLC has acquired IX Center Corp. acquired, the privately held company that controls the 2.2 million square foot facility. Through the deal, prolific investor and developer Stuart Lichter signs a long-term lease with the City of Cleveland, which owns the property, and contracts with event producers who have been pending a year.
The transaction sets the stage for popular gatherings, including the Cleveland Auto Show, which will return to IX Center International Airport in 2022.
The purchase ends the legal battle between at least three trade fair organizers and IX Center Corp., which announced its exit from the event business last September.
The coronavirus pandemic and government public health orders have sidelined the IX Center, one of the largest privately owned convention facilities in the country. A temporary shutdown that began in March 2020 dragged on for months, creating an unsustainable situation for IX Center Corp.
The shutdown sparked a cascade of lawsuits as event producers urged the company to reopen the building and fulfill contracts that run until August 2024, high ceilings, and tall columns.
Industrial Realty Group, a California-based developer known for tackling challenging real estate, will play for both audiences.
“I think it’s really important to bring the shows back. I think they’re a big economic engine for the region,” said Lichter, President and Founder of the IRG, during a phone call.
At the same time he said: “We have a lot of extra land that has never been developed that we want to do something with. Creation of industrial and aviation-related uses. “
He did not want to disclose the cost of the transaction, which closed late Tuesday, August 31st. A subsidiary of the Industrial Realty Group bought the shares of IX Center Corp. from Park Corp., the family business that owned the building for decades.
“We have made agreements with the main trade fairs to keep them there for several years and to continue operating the plant,” said Lichter. “We have also reached an agreement with the sellers of the stock. That was very important to them and one of the reasons why we are making the deal.”
The organizers of the Auto Show, Great Big Home and Garden Show, Cleveland Home and Remodeling Expo, and Ohio RV Supershow are preparing for their return. Other IX Center Corp. events, including the IX Christmas Connection and the Piston Powered Auto-Rama, are also being revived.
However, even the biggest shows don’t fill the huge space.
Lichter expects to move the events to a smaller area between 400,000 and 500,000 square feet, he said, to make way for more lucrative commercial leases.
GOJO Industries, the Akron-based manufacturer of Purell hand sanitisers and other products, is already using the warehouse-like south hall for storage. The company’s lease for this space runs until autumn 2022.