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Release of state funds for redeveloping contaminated sites has created a buzz in Toledo

Lucas County leaders hope that a share of the $350 million in state money available this year to clean up contaminated sites could lead to the future redevelopment of the Nicholas and Spitzer buildings downtown.

Known as brownfield sites, their legacy of pollution at such properties often stands in the way because of additional redevelopment costs and liability that would-be developers don’t want to assume.

That’s especially true in a highly competitive real estate market, in which businesses have the luxury of moving on to other locations if a site that has caught their attention comes with too many strings attached, area officials agree.

“If we don’t have buildings or sites cleaned up, there’s no chance,” David Mann, Lucas County Land Bank president and chief executive officer, said.

During their normal meeting on Tuesday, Lucas County commissioners are expected to approve applications for state-funded asbestos removal at 1301 Monroe St., 3210 Monroe St., and 428 10th St., a trio of government-owned buildings. The deadline for the first round of grants is Jan. 31.

Many other projects are contemplated.

The DeWine administration said in its announcement last month that it is guaranteeing each of Ohio’s 88 counties at least $1 million and that the remaining $262 million will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis with a 75/25 match. The money was authorized by the Ohio General Assembly under the state biennium budget bill, House Bill 110, and is being distributed by the Ohio Department of Development.

“It’s good for business development,” Lucas County Commissioner Gary Byers said.

In a related matter, the DeWine administration also announced last month that $150 million is being made available to raze dilapidated commercial and residential buildings in hopes of revitalizing surrounding properties.

That program also was funded by House Bill 110, and will be administered by the same state agency. Each county is eligible to receive at least $500,000 for that type of work.

One of the region’s biggest examples of brownfield redevelopment was the construction of the Cleveland-Cliffs briquette plant on former Gulf Oil property that had remained vacant for years because of pollution.

That one, though, was “sort of a once-in-a-generation transformative project,” Mr. Mann said.

Another major one recently was the construction of the Amazon regional facility on the former Southwyck Mall site.  Brownfield projects don’t always involve such large footprints of land, though.

Many involve removal of asbestos, lead-based paint, and other “sins from the past” from historic buildings, such as what area officials are hoping to do with the Nicholas and Spitzer buildings downtown, Mr. Mann said.

“It really reduces the speed to market, which wins deals,” Toledo Commissioner of Economic Development Director Brandon Sehlhorst said.

Between the Cleveland-Cliffs site, the former Southwyck Mall site, and announced plans or recent development for the former North Towne Mall, Textileather, and Overland Industrial Park sites, demolition and cleanup have resulted in an estimated 2,700 more jobs across 350 acres of land, he said.

“It’s been kind of a chicken-and-egg issue,” Mr. Sehlhorst said. “I think the General Assembly realized we needed to be more proactive.”

He said the work is similar to initiatives offered through the Clean Ohio Fund a few years ago.

Toledo isn’t actually applying for grants during the first round. But it plans to seek money for demolition and brownfield redevelopment during the third cycle, which begins July 1, Mr. Sehlhorst said.

Grant money could potentially be used to raze and prep the old Sears and Elder-Beerman buildings in the Westgate area. Those are two large buildings that remain empty, despite being in one of Toledo’s more prime retail areas.

The city now is razing buildings with $6 million of the $189 million it received from the federal government under the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan, Mr. Sehlhorst said.

It also hopes to use some of that money to leverage the match requirements of new state grants being offered.

Lucas County Treasurer Lindsay Webb, the land bank’s board chairman, said she is “thrilled that the state has made this money available.”

“We are working hard to make sure that we bring every dollar that we can to Lucas County to ready brownfield sites for redevelopment,” she said. “There are so many properties that need redevelopment in our community, from our downtown to the heart of some of our most storied neighborhoods.”


Posted By: The Toledo Blade on January 10, 2022.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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