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        Residents filled Northwood City Council chambers on Jan. 25 to listen to economic development ideas for the former site of the Woodville Mall.

        The main mall structure was razed in 2014 due to structural issues. The city acquired the property at a sheriff’s sale in February 2016 for $200,000. Since then, it has been cleaning up the site, including the removal of asbestos. With the cleanup nearly complete, the city hasn’t yet decided whether the property should be for commercial, industrial, or residential development. Or maybe even a combination of the three.

        “It was vibrant at one point in time,” said Glenn Grisdale, the city’s economic development consultant who ran the meeting.

        “Over the years, it fell into disrepair,” he said. The Woodville Mall, Northwest Ohio’s first enclosed mall in 1968, “is no longer an asset in the community.”

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Demolition

        The city was straddled with a variety of environmental issues, he said. Among them: The site included 50,000 square feet of asbestos containing material tiles, and 771,844 square feet of spray on asbestos containing material insulation covering the entire footprint of the buildings, concrete walls, I-beams, ceiling tiles, hard plaster ceilings, and floors, according to Grisdale.

        The site was deemed too expensive for the private sector to fix, he said.

        “The private sector washed their hands of it. And eventually, it fell onto our laps,” he said,

        Grisdale said some people have a false perception of the city as “a dying community with high commercial vacancy” and that it has nothing to offer businesses. But in reality, he noted, the city is a growing and stable community. Northwood is home to Wood County’s largest employers, such as Norplas, NAMSA, and FedEx.

        The city has undertaken every action possible leading up to remediating the site, he said, including

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acquiring all of the property except the 10 acre Sears parcel. It also received a state loan to help pay for demolition services and asbestos abatement.

        “We went before the Ohio Water Development Board. We became the first community in Ohio to get money loaned to us with a low interest rate to remediate asbestos. That was the best option for us,” said Grisdale. The cost to remediate the site is $4.2 million.

        The goal is to remediate the site by this spring and summer, he added. The city hired Brian McMahon, a real estate broker at Danbury National, to market the site.

       

All utilities

        The city has begun a site planning and visioning process, said Grisdale, an economic development/planner for Reveille in Bowling Green.

        “The site has all the utilities – water, sewer, storm retention and electric.
There’s electric capacity there that could pretty much accommodate anything,” he said, including enough electricity to service a steel facility.

        The site is also close to major highways, such as I-280 and the turnpike, he added.

        “We’re in a good location. We’re close to state highways, close to Toledo, the Jeep facility, and the airport.”

        Zoning is available to accommodate any kind of development, he said.

        “If we come to the conclusion there’s something that our zoning doesn’t allow for, we have all the tools in place to be flexible to change the zoning. We have all these things in place.”

        The city also has been earmarking funds over the last three years for economic development, he added.

        “We have all the economic incentives and resources in place. Your elected city officials have been putting additional resources into planning to make sure your community is ready to accommodate anyone. We’ve created areas within the city that offer property tax abatements to help bring in new property valuation. Residential property abatement is also available for residential renovations. We need to have those renovations in place to keep us open for business.”

       

Feedback

        The city is getting ready to remediate the site, and will continue to seek community feedback, refine the site planning process, align community tools and resources to maximize site readiness, and market the site to interests that are well matched to the community’s desires and market realities, he said.

        Also attending the meeting were Mayor Ed Schimmel, members of city council, City Administrator Bob Anderson, Kim Vaculik, the city’s planning and zoning official, Dave Kuhn, the city engineer, and Scott Sellers, of Midwest Environmental, who is assisting in razing the mall buildings.

Auto supply

        McMahon said a good fit for the site could be an auto supply company.

        “In my opinion, one of the better uses that should be explored for this property is possibly a supplier. Not only for Jeep. The next generation of transportation is autonomous vehicles. And it’s probably coming to this market. This would be a great site for that.”

        McMahon was asked by a resident if he had been contacted yet by developers interested in the site. McMahon said he’s had some interest. “I’ve had a fair number of inquiries. But nobody yet who is ready to write a check and buy the site,” he said. He expects more serious interest once the property becomes “site ready.”

        A resident suggested making the site agricultural, since Hirzel Canning Company owns property nearby.

        “They use a portion of that land to spray some of their extra water they might not need onto that site,” said Grisdale. “We are in close contact with Hirzel. They are a vital asset to the community. That might be a possibility. At the end of the day, you might say we have enough of everything, and we want it to be farmland. There might be a part of that site that would be a good public purpose.”

        Residents were given digital clicking devices to vote on questions regarding the mall. Among the questions: “What type of land uses/activities do you feel are most fitting for this site?” A majority – 37 percent – voted for a mix of residential, commercial, industrial and public use.

        Seller said the demolition of Tireman and the Anderson stores “should start in two weeks.”

        Grisdale said he expects to plan more community meetings to get feedback from the public.

        “We’re going to continue to do that process,” he said. ”At the end of the day, we’re going to have to consolidate these ideas.”

       

       

       

       

        

 

 

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