Economic development officials in Champaign County are looking for new ownership for the roughly 30-acre Robert Rothschild farm property just outside Urbana after the well-known business merged with a Cincinnati company.
Robert Rothschild Farm has roots in Champaign County dating to 1976, when Robert and Sara Rothschild moved to the area from California and began selling raspberry preserves. Over time, the business evolved into a nationally known food manufacturing company that made items like dips, mixes, condiments and preserves under various brands, including Robert Rothschild Farm, Game Day Gourmet, Made in Napa Valley and Vineyard Pantry.
Despite that long history near Urbana, Chicago-based Glencoe Capital Management acquired the business last year and consolidated its operations with Cincinnati-based Clearbrook Farms, a fruit-based food manufacturer Glencoe acquired in 2016. Local officials are hoping to find a new buyer for the former Robert Rothschild Farm property quickly and said the site is ideal for several potential uses.
Officials at Glencoe did not return a call seeking comment this week.
The Champaign Economic Partnership is working with Gary Fisher, a commercial real estate agent from Cincinnati, to market the property, said Marcia Bailey, executive director of the CEP. Local realtors are also making contacts with prospective buyers, and the Dayton Development Coalition is also making the listing available, she said.
“It’s food-grade processing, so that’s always a big plus,” Bailey said. “Some of the site selections that come through, they want food-grade manufacturing space. With the sewer line being down there from the city, that’s an extra advantage too.”
Local leaders made a significant investment several years ago to extend a sanitary sewer line to the business to allow for an expansion and keep Robert Rothschild Farm in Champaign County. The city of Urbana agreed to spend $160,000 from the city’s sanitary sewer fund to extend the sewer line to the business. The Champaign County commissioners also applied for a $160,000 Community Development Block Grant to pay for a portion of the project, while the company picked up the remaining $467,000 cost.
That project has paid dividends even though the company’s local operations are shutting down, Bailey said. She said Koenig Equipment, an agricultural equipment dealer has since tapped into the line.
Memorial Health is opening a new $9 million medical center at 1958 E. U.S. 36 and chose that site in part because of access to the sewer line as well, she said.
The Rothschild Farm property could be a good fit for a variety of uses including food manufacturing, vertical farming, craft brewing and other options, Fisher said. The area has a qualified labor force, the site has highway access at U.S. 36 and there’s room for expansion if necessary, he said.
A brochure promoting the site describes the property as a little more than 30 acres with a roughly 46,000 square-foot production facility and an area for retail, a restaurant or meeting space. The brochure also highlight’s Urbana’s access to several key population centers within 300 to 600 miles.
The sale price listed on the brochure is about $2.9 million. Fisher said the site could be ideal for a business like vertical farming, in which produce is grown on trays stacked vertically in an indoor, climate-controlled environment.
“It’s a unique property from a lot of perspectives,” he said. “Its history is unique, and at its root it’s really a food production facility. Under the broader category of industrial properties, those types of facilities are a higher level because they’re food facilities, they’re inspected and they’re built to higher standards because of their unique use handling food. They’re relatively rare compared to your run-of-the-mill industrial building.”