The I-X Center, which closed in late 2020 due to what the former company said was Covid-related financial concerns, has a new operator — Industrial Realty Group, which owns commercial and industrial properties across the country and which finalized a purchase of the I-X Center Corp.'s stock this week.
IRG said in a press release Thursday morning that it will reopen the facility for events and trade shows later this year and plans to redevelop the land — the property is 159 acres in all — in future years.
"The I-X Center has been on our radar for years," Stuart Lichter, President of IRG, said in a statement. "It has 159 acres full of potential and a versatile 2.2 million square foot building. We're preparing a creative, robust plan for surrounding development, while simultaneously reopening the existing I-X Center this year."
There will be a reduced footprint for events, but the addition of industrial tenants, according to Crain's Cleveland.
The city of Cleveland owns the land and building and had leased it to the I-X Center Corp., which operated the convention center. IRG purchased the stock in the deal.
Known for its annual boat show, home and garden show, the I-X Center Piston Autorama and the iconic I-X Indoor Amusement Park, the massive event space, adjacent to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, first opened in 1985 in its current form but led a far different life before that.
From the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:
The I-X CENTER, an exhibition building located at 6300 Riverside Dr. in BROOK PARK, was originally built in 1942 as the Cleveland Bomber Plant, but known through most of its history as the Cleveland Tank Plant. Owned by the War Department during WORLD WAR II, the facility was operated by General Motors as the Fisher Body Aircraft Plant No. 2 and made the B-29 bomber. In its heyday, the plant employed 15,000 workers, many of whom lived in housing projects built on Triskett and Berea roads and rode to work in a CTS bus dubbed the "Bomber Bus." When the war ended and the plant closed, the City of Cleveland decided against leasing the facility for future airport expansion at a bargain rate of $1 a year for fear it could not afford the maintenance costs. After a brief tenure as an exhibition hall and sales center, the plant was leased to Natl. Terminals for soybean storage.
By 1950, as the KOREAN WAR expanded, GM's Cadillac Div. selected the Bomber Plant as the manufacturing site for army tanks. The Cadillac Tank Plant, as it was renamed, promised immediate employment to 6,000. After closing in 1959, the plant reopened in 1960, when Cadillac was awarded contracts to build the self-propelled howitzers M-108 and M-109, and the M-114 Armored Personnel Carriers. In 1965 GM shifted management of the tank plant (now usually called the Cleveland Tank Plant or the Cleveland Ordnance Plant) to its Allison Div.
Among the products of the Cleveland Tank Plant operation was the controversial M-551 16-ton Sheridan tank, billed as the most versatile and mobile tank ever built. Congress decided to discontinue the program when the GM contract was completed in 1972. The Defense Dept. announced its intention to sell the plant. Brook Park, Cleveland, and GM expressed interest but dropped out of the bidding for various reasons. In 1977 the Park Corp. of Charleston, WV, bought the facility to create an international trade mart. That plan never fully materialized, but in 1985 Park opened the former tank plant as the I-X Center, billed as the largest single-building exhibition facility in the world. Adding to this in 1993, the Park Corp. opened 50,000 sq. ft. of space in the facility's basement to be used for mid-sized exhibitions.