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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority received a $2 million grant from the state to clean up the former industrial park at Beazer, also known as the former Toledo Coke site, located at the Port of Toledo.

The Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund (CORF) grant will allow the Port to complete the remaining environmental remediation and demolition activities at the site, just off Front Street.

The Port believes that the site will create several construction jobs and draw hundreds of new manufacturing and seaport jobs when the cleanup is complete.

Possible business markets that might be drawn to the site include agricultural, alternative energy, automotive, plastics, glass, as well as other manufacturers.

Matthew Sapara, the Port’s director of economic development, said there are several companies involved in manufacturing and alternative energy “that are looking for a place to land.”

“When the economy does turn around, they want to start producing their products here,” said Sapara.

Those markets would be drawn to the site because of its superior transportation assets, including rail, highway and water access, said Sapara.

The property, zoned for heavy industrial development, is adjacent to the Norfolk Southern Class 1 railroad and has a marine dock that, once improved, can accommodate large ships for convenient access to international markets via the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway.  The site is also on a designated heavy haul truck route into Michigan and Canada.

The Port bought the 32-acre property in 2004 for $900,000 to facilitate the remediation and to incorporate the site into its seaport operations.

The property is adjacent to the Port’s 181-acre Ironville Docks Development, a former Chevron facility, which the Port bought in 2008. Ironville Docks is undergoing a massive transformation following an $18 million public-private partnership investment in new rail lines, seaport improvements and other developments funded in part by a $5 million State of Ohio Job Ready Sites grant. Both properties, which are currently being marketed to prospective tenants, will be leased to companies with business models that include needs for marine commerce.

The former coke production facility has heavily impacted soil, heavy foundations, and construction debris that needs to be removed, before it can be redeveloped, said Sapara.

“When we originally acquired the site, there were about 50 acres. We split part of that up and deeded it to the George Gradel Company to help facilitate the city’s acquisition of property for the Marina District,” said Sapara. “More recently, we split off another section of approximately five acres that is going to be used for the development of the OE Meyer Company’s expansion in Toledo.”

A 40 percent match of $1,383,632 has been committed to the project through a Housing and Urban Development Economic Development Initiative grant and an Ohio Department of Development Shovel Ready grant. The funds allowed the Port to complete environmental assessments and fund construction of a road and installation of water, sanitary and storm sewer systems into the property.

Sapara said such grants are available to redevelop brownfield sites for the right projects.

“Our project scored very well, and it did so for a number of reasons. First and foremost is the fact that we had a huge match component to our grant. The state isn’t the only one investing in this. Associated with this project is $1.3 million in local match. The state was very impressed by the diversity of that match. It didn’t come from just one source. That really weighed strongly in our favor.”

Sapara also credited the successful grant award to the unity of government officials.

“It’s given us a huge advantage over the rest of the state of Ohio. When we apply for a grant, we get huge support from both sides of the aisle. It’s not a Democrat or Republican issue. Secondly, we have a plan in place in terms of what we want to do in development on the east side of the river. We’ve invited the department of development up here in the past. They’ve walked the site with us. We’ve provided legislative updates to our elected leaders. So they all feel part of it now. It’s not just an isolated grant application that we can send to Columbus. Those two things have proved dramatically successful,” he said.

The $42 million in stimulus and CORF awards on the east side of the river for the Port is indicative of the broad support for these projects, he added.

“For example, the other closest other to us is the Port of Cleveland, which received $3.8 million. So we know we’re onto something. It’s a very successful system,” said Sapara.

“This project is an excellent example of local, state and federal political subdivisions bringing resources together to redevelop a former brownfield,” said Paul Tothe, president and CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “We were able to bring forward a collaborative top notch proposal that – once completed – will present excellent job opportunities for the region into the future.”

Sapara said it will take about 20 months for the cleanup to be completed at the site from the time a consultant is selected.

“I’ve met with three companies in the last month alone that has demonstrated an interest in the property,” he said. “That’s extremely good on a piece of property that’s not yet ready for development. It gives an insight into where the economy is right now. Those three prospects are larger companies that are involved in manufacturing. So the economy is turning.”

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