Demolition of Cleveland Stockyards’ Swift & Co. Meatpacking Building Begins

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As morning traffic rushed north and south on W. 65th Street, a “high reach” demolition machine began to dismantle the top floor of the Swift & Co. meatpacking building, long an eyesore and hazard for the Stockyards neighborhood. The $3+ million demolition, under the management of the local B&B Wrecking and Excavating, will tear down the enormous complex which includes the Bell Tire building.
Keisha Gonzalez, of Metro West Community Development Organization, told Scene that officials and community development folks have been trying get the structure demolished for eight years or more, and that funding has been the primary holdup. The presence of the old buildings, she said, has been a significant hindrance to further economic development on W. 65th Street. Stockyards was once the local heart of Cleveland’s slaughterhouse and meatpacking industries. The industry that now dominates the area is scrap metal.
The City of Cleveland’s interim Building and Housing Director, Ayonna Blue Donald, said that part of the current funding has come from Mayor Frank Jackson’s “Safe Routes to Schools” program. Constellation Schools’ Stockyard Community Elementary, Max Hayes High School and Menlo Park Academy are all within walking distance of the demolition site Gonzalez said that the biggest hazard for students has been falling brick from the buildings. The Swift & Co. facility opened in the 1890s, according to the city, and was shuttered in 1961. Donald said that the first phase will cost about $600,000 and will remove the front portion of the complex. It’s not yet known what may occupy the site in the future. Officials have suggested that manufacturing, “especially food processing,” might be a good fit. A rep from B&B Wrecking said that much of the project’s costs had been spent on abatement (asbestos and the like). The physical demolition, he estimated, probably costs less than $1 million.
While city, community and media representatives appeared for the 8 a.m. demolition on a bitterly cold March morning, there was no climactic implosion or inaugural wrecking-ball drop. The “high-reach” method, which is much more precise, bangs and yanks and pries apart the structure without flinging bricks and concrete onto nearby properties or into the street. (Motorists were surely grateful for the protective fencing, though.)

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