From Foundry to Fish Farm

Everyone cheers when an abandoned industrial property can find new life – but it takes money, savvy and, most importantly, a vision.
Those qualities came together for the Central and Fairfax neighborhoods with the launching of The Foundry Project, an innovative project in its infancy slated for a mixed-use re-birth on East 71st Street and Platt Avenue. Thanks to assistance from the Cuyahoga Land Bank, the former T&B Foundry, a former metal casting plant, will hopefully transform from a boarded-up factory to a sustainable fish farm and a groundbreaking data center. It’s owner, J. Duncan Shorey envisions all sorts of possibilities: an orchard, a fine arts incubator and an educational center for fish farming.
The unusual brownfield redevelopment is the brainchild of Land Bank Staff Shorey, an environmental attorney, consultant and geothermal expert. He sees a synergy between the proposed functions of the eight acre property. “We are looking to accomplish a lot,” he says. The property had been vacant since T&B closed in 2012 and was starting to deteriorate. There were legal hurdles to overcome and the property was weighed down with almost two million dollars in liens. Shorey credits the Cuyahoga Land Bank for clearing away those enormous obstacles and acquiring the property with a clean title. This allowed Shorey to purchase the property in March to begin his plans.
Initial focus is on the fish farm and data center. The fish of choice is Branzino, also known as Mediterranean sea bass, a mild-tasting, quality fish that is high in healthy Omega-3 fats and currently farmed in Europe. Growing them in Cleveland will mean fresher, healthier fish for restaurants and markets across the Great Lakes Region region and Ontario. The farm will use a Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS), a process in which water is cleaned, filtered and recycled to the fish tanks without hormones or antibiotics, creating a low-stress environment.  According to Shorey, he has collected letters of intent from several seafood distributors, as well as endorsements from Cleveland chefs Karen Small of Flying Fig restaurant in Ohio City,Land Bank Staff  and Doug Katz, owner of Fire Food and Drink in Shaker Square.
“We did a lot of market research,” Shorey says, “and asked what restaurants would buy.  We had to ask, is this fish agreeable to being managed? Across all types of farming, that is a consideration.”
Another important factor was the cost of generating energy to run an aquaculture site that proposes to produce ten thousand pounds of fish per week. According to Shorey, the solution is an underground, bunkered data center that will use three 100-gigabit per second fiber networks located next to the adjacent rail lines to provide customers with one of the world’s fastest internet connections. The data center will generate “waste heat” that will power and heat the fish farm which in turn will produce fish waste to feed the planned orchard and other crops. “We will use geothermal technology – it is not new,” Shorey says, “but it is off-the-shelf technology used in an innovative way.”
“We will have twenty thousand square feet of computer space,” ShoLand Bank Staff rey adds, “a massive array that will be an economical data center for some of Cleveland’s biggest companies.”
In total, The Foundry Project will cost between fifteen million and twenty million dollars, including about six million dollars for asbestos removal in the old foundry building. Shorey says he plans to develop the property in stages; over time it will generate jobs as well as education.
“We hope to grow sustainable fish, create good jobs for both inner city and other residents and bring good food choices to the neighborhood,” states Shorey.
His timeline is ambitious: Shorey says, the data center will happen pretty quickly and “we will be growing fish in the next year.”

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