Months After Closing, Old Kroger Bakery Tops List Of Endangered Buildings

Jun 4, 2019

The old Kroger Bakery factory will get a new life, if the Columbus Landmarks Foundation gets its way.

The Cleveland Avenue complex, near I-670, shut down in February. Months later, it's already on the Columbus Landmarks 2019 list of Most Endangered Sites.

Becky West, executive director of the non-profit, believes a developer could restore both of the historic brick and stucco buildings.

“The building is now for sale and we’re very hopeful that it will be adaptively reused and turned into another productive entity for Columbus,” West says.

After Kroger officials decided the old buildings were obsolete, it laid off 411 workers who were producing baked goods at the plant.

The factory at 427 Cleveland Avenue was originally a Ford automotive plant that assembled Model T cars in 1914. Ford stopped assembly at the site in 1932 and eventually closed it in 1939. Kroger later took over and built an adjacent building at 457 Cleveland Avenue.

"The building was later adapted as an expansion of the neighboring commercial bakery for the Kroger Company where 14 production lines filled downtown Columbus with a sweet aroma for 90+ years," the Columbus Landmarks website reads.

West says the structures could transform into another company’s job site or housing.

Top of old Kroger bakery building at 457 Cleveland Avenue.
Credit Debbie Holmes / WOSU

“It has wonderful adjacency to downtown, to all of the exciting growth at Columbus State, to the Fort Hayes campus across the street,” West says. “It’s an important site. Cleveland Avenue is a major corridor.”

West says Columbus has maintained only 14% of its pre-1945 buildings. That's far below a 50-city average of about 22%.

“We feel that our inventory is dwindling, has dwindled, and that we need to be very protective of it because it is a balance of the old and new together that make Columbus distinctive,” West says.

She says developers have an important role to play to create new ideas for the old bakery.

“They are the ones who can take these old buildings and turn them into something useful and to give them another 100 years of life,” West says. “So we absolutely think it’s important work, but we can’t take all the credit for sure.”

The Kroger Bakery factory at 457 Cleveland Avenue.
Credit Debbie Holmes / WOSU

West says the organization has been successful in saving the Trolley Barn in Franklin Park on the East Side, which will now include a market and other businesses. The old municipal light plant on Nationwide Boulevard will also see commercial use.

Other contenders on the 2019 Most Endangered Site list include the Beck Street School, The Broadwin, Hayden Mausoleum, King & High Block, Macon Hotel, West Side Spiritualist Church, and White Haines & Madisons.