Renovations are underway at the former Fifth Third Bank on Cleveland Avenue — but despite what you may have heard through the grapevine, it won’t become a microbrewery.
The Mercy Foundation of Lorain County plans to move into the long-abandoned bank building this spring.
President Scott Pember said his organization has expanded in recent years and is planning to add staff.
“We’re really growing and what we need — because we’re buried here in the hospital, no one knows we’re here — is a place where we’re visible,” he said.
Having outgrown existing space at Mercy Health Lorain Hospital, he’s been looking for a stand-alone office location for more than a year. When he connected with donor and property owner Chris Russo, he knew the old Fifth Third building was the right spot.
Russo, who owns The Brew Kettle and Hot Dog Heaven, had considered several business opportunities at the former Fifth Third site, which may have caused rumors to fly.
“I head the rumors, too — that it was going to be a brewery or a pizzeria or a banquet center,” Pember said. “But it’s not. It’s ours.”
The Mercy Foundation is the hospital system’s fundraising arm. When Pember took the lead there six years ago, the group was raising $1 million per year — in 2018, it took in more than $4 million.
Everything goes to help the hospital. The foundation has purchased a new MRI machine, raised cash for new buildings, and helped at-risk mothers and newborns.
Pember said the foundation plans to give more than $2 million in support of the hospital in 2019.
Donors enable that giving — and having a separate headquarters for the Mercy Foundation will draw attention of philanthropists, he said.
“It will really tell our donors that we’re here and create new avenues,” he said.
Russo has already gutted the Cleveland Avenue bank, spending weeks and burning through jackhammers to remove its vault.
When complete, the first floor footprint will be about 2,500 square feet and a mezzanine of more than 1,000 square feet will be added.
The space was designed by architect Jim Yorks.
Pember said he hopes to move his six employees into the renovated space April 1 and hire additional workers.