Avon Lake Will Add to Waterfront After Tearing Down Plant

Some 40 acres of lakefront land will soon be home to a mixed-use development in this Ohio community.

For nearly a century, a power plant has overlooked Lake Erie from the shore of Avon Lake, Ohio.

Built by the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company in the 1920s, it contributed to the industrial might and economic growth of Cleveland throughout the 20th century — and helped take Avon Lake from a pastoral village to its current status as one of the fastest-growing Cleveland suburbs.

The power plant, located on 40 acres of waterfront land, was shuttered following its sale in 2022 to Avon Lake Environmental Redevelopment Group, a subsidiary of Kentucky-based Charah Solutions, for an undisclosed price.

Plans are being made not just for a new use for the property, including some historic elements of the plant, but for a complete remaking of a significant portion of Avon Lake.

“This is a pivotal moment for the future of the city, and we are delighted to have this opportunity to craft a new vision for the power plant site and our community,” Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka said in a statement last July, when renderings were first shown of the future of the power plant.

The plant was the biggest of its kind when it opened to great fanfare in 1926, with industrialists and government officials descending on Avon Lake, a township formed just a decade earlier, breaking off from nearby Avon Township. Avon Lake was probably best known at that point as a home for the car barn of the Lake Shore Electric Railway, an interurban line that ran from Cleveland to Toledo.

Charles Brush, a pioneer in the field of electric power and illumination, turned the wheel to let the first steam into one of the two turbines in the $150 million plant. (The waterfront location was valuable for cooling the coal-powered turbines; eventually, there would be nine at the plant.)

Additions were made in 1947, 1955 and 1970, but as energy generation got more efficient, turbines were deactivated. The plant, which was estimated to use 4,000 tons of coal a day in 1950, was also seen as having a negative environmental impact. (It’s estimated that the closure of the plant will mean a reduction of 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere annually.)

Ultimately, the land became more valuable than the service being provided by the plant, which was operating 50 days a year when the city announced the plant’s closure in 2021.

The first order of business was environmental remediation, which started immediately after the plant’s closing in April 2022.

Avon Lake received a $300,000 grant from Ohio’s new Brownfield Remediation fund for assessment and, as of January, more than 36,000 tons of coal have been removed from the site, and more than 778 tons of asbestos. That which is not recyclable is going to Republic landfills in Lorain County and Port Clinton. Remediation and restoration is expected to be completed by 2024.

Avon Lake Environmental Redevelopment Group has presented an ambitious reimagining of the property. The turbine building, pump house and a smokestack will remain standing, while everything else will be torn down, opening up the property for mixed-use redevelopment.

It’s even possible that Lake Road, a main thoroughfare through Avon Lake, could be rerouted closer to the shoreline. The plan would also turn some of the power plant property into green space, giving residents lakefront access through the turbine building.

“This project is a generational opportunity to reframe the former power plant site into a regional attraction while restoring the lakefront ecosystem,” said Scott Reschly, the vice president of operations for the Avon Lake Environmental Redevelopment Group, when initial renderings were unveiled last year.

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