Brick by brick

The recent groundbreaking for the Cleveland Foodbank’s new community food distribution center is the latest move in the creation of the 120,000-square-foot facility at East 152nd Street.

Anne Goodman, the Foodbank’s executive director, says her organization knew it was time to expand when in 2002, it had to turn away 1.5 million pounds of food and spend $250,000 on off-site food storage and lease costs. The previous year, it spent $50,000 to repair the heat and electrical systems.

“We considered very carefully whether we could move into an existing building, and we searched high and low for an existing building we could renovate,” Goodman says.

That question became moot when she realized renovating an existing building to accommodate refrigerated and frozen storage needs would be too costly.

The Foodbank’s property committee worked with Cleveland’s department of economic development to find a site close to a highway, accessible to donors distributing food via trucks and convenient to the Foodbank’s member agencies.

“We have 4,500 volunteers a year, so it needs to be easy for them to access and in a safe area where they feel comfortable coming in the evening,” Goodman says.

She says the property committee had its work cut out for it when planning the new center.

“We’ve spent a long time exploring our needs, what the future would look like and the capacity of our existing facilities,” she says. “It was a very deliberate process, and I think that will lead to the best product in terms of the most efficient building we can have.”

The property committee worked with Giant Eagle distribution experts to determine facility requirements using industry standards.

“The Giant Eagle people know food industry trends, and at the Foodbank, we simply mirror food industry trends,” Goodman says. “If there’s a lot of frozen food in the grocery store, there’s a lot of frozen food at the Foodbank. So they were able to (help us determine) what appropriate resources need to be devoted to the amount and types of product that we distribute.”

Vice chairman of Giant Eagle Anthony Rego is chair of the Foodbank’s capital campaign, and Giant Eagle Northeast Ohio distribution director Larry Sevich advises the Foodbank on the interior and setup of the center.

The Foodbank is working to raise more than $9 million from the Cleveland area, in addition to money from the federal, state and county governments. It had raised $6.7 million at press time to build the facility. and expects to make up the difference through contributions.

“Since you’re using dollars that are donated by the community, whether they’re public or private dollars, there’s a responsibility to using them well. It’s not about building the Taj Mahal; it’s about building what you need so you don’t come back in a few years needing more resources to help fix or enlarge what you’ve done,” Goodman says.

The Foodbank also hired a project manager, “because we’re not experts on construction,” says Goodman, who oversees the work of the architect and builders and acts as an adviser to the Foodbank.

“The dollars we’ve invested in (hiring a project manager) help provide assurance to the community that we’re building the right building for them,” Goodman says. “The steps we’ve taken will pay off in the end, and I just can’t wait to move in, probably at the end of 2004.” HOW TO REACH: Cleveland Foodbank, (216) 696-6007,

What can an architect do for you?

Whether you’re expanding a current facility, adapting an existing structure or constructing a new building, each project represents an investment that will affect the productivity and efficiency of an organization for years to come.

Therefore, choosing the right architect is critical.

* Early involvement is key. A good architect should not only guide the design, but conduct site studies, help secure planning and zoning approvals and perform pre-design tasks. When architects are involved at the earliest planning stages, they have the opportunity to understand your business, develop creative solutions and propose ways to reduce costs, adding to the productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of your operations.

* Make your vision a reality. A construction professional should help define what you want to build, present options you may not have considered and help you get the most out of your investment. They don’t just design four walls and a roof – they create total environments that are functional and exciting.

* Get the most for each construction dollar. Good upfront planning reduces building costs, decreases an office’s energy needs and increases its resale value through good design.

Building is a long process that is often messy and disruptive, particularly if you’re working in the space while it’s under construction. It’s a good idea to hire professionals who represent your needs and not those of the contractors. HOW TO REACH: American Institute of Architects, (800) 242-3837.