Brownfield Grants Unlock Potential for Local Projects

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The $12.4 million in state brownfield grants awarded to Mahoning and Trumbull counties Friday by the Ohio Department of Development will help to unlock the potential of key local projects.

More than half of those funds — $6.96 million – was awarded to Mahoning County Land Reutilization Corp., better known as Mahoning County Land Bank, for cleanup and remediation at 20 Federal Place, which the city of Youngstown owns and has been working with consultants to renovate and potentially sell.

“Whatever direction the rebirth of the building takes, they have to deal with remediation here,” said Deb Flora, land bank executive director. “This is a crucial first step toward the long-term future of the building.”

Securing the grant is key to unlocking a financial stack of $30 million or more, said Jim Ambrose, director of business development at Ambrose, during a meeting last week of City Council’s community planning and economic development committee. Ambrose is the architectural firm the city is working with as a potential developer of 20 Federal.

“This is a piece that really unlocks” those other elements, said Doug Rasmussen, CEO and managing principal with Steadfast City Economic & Community Partners, a St. Louis-based consultant working with the city on the project.

The next step is to work with the state officials to understand timing and guidelines related to the grant, he said. Actual physical work likely won’t begin until late 2022 at the earliest.

In all, Youngstown city projects received a total of $7.2 million. In addition to 20 Federal, two other projects received cleanup and remediation money from the state.

Another $149,803 grant will be used to demolish and clear a shuttered church at 131 W. Woodland Ave., and a 30-unit townhouse complex with affordable, two- and –three-bedroom units will be built at the site.

The third grant, $86,887, will support clean-up and remediation of 2307 Market St., which was built in 1921, according to the state announcement. At various times, the building housed an ice cream shop and later a series of bars with apartments on the upper floor.

The remediated site will be used for transit-oriented development initiatives, Flora said.

“With key support from the state and cooperation with our partners at the Mahoning County Land Reutilization Corp., these funds will go toward implementing critical improvements and investments in our neighborhoods and downtown district – including new affordable housing, job creation and modernized space for residents and businesses, and new opportunities for transit-oriented development,” Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said in a statement.

Another Mahoning County project, the former Royal China plant in Sebring, received $1.49 million for cleanup and remediation.

“This is another chapter in the county’s history of the rise and fall of manufacturing,” Flora said. The “troubled” site, which has lingered following a “devastating fire,” nonetheless has great attributes, including good transportation corridor access.

Visiting the Royal Sebring China property recently are Michael Conny, leader of the company that owns the site, Sebring Mayor James Harp, former Mayor J. Michael Pinkerton and Mahoning County Treasurer Dan Yemma, chairman of the land ank.

The site was awarded Clean Ohio funds in 2006 but the property owner at the time was unable to come up with the local match, a problem solved this time by funding approved by the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners, Flora said. The property is owned today by a Sebring native whose “sole goal is to bring jobs back to his hometown,” she said.

The Western Reserve Port Authority received $496,000 to support cleanup and remediation at a fifth Mahoning County property, a five-acre site at Castlo Industrial Park that was once part of Youngstown Sheet and Tube’s Struthers Division. The five-acre site will be redeveloped as a mixed-use property supporting a new retail outlet, indoor sports training and small manufacturing.

There also are plans to pave over a part of the site and dedicate it to public parking for downtown Struthers, said Sarah Lown, public finance director for the port authority and executive director of Castlo Community Improvement Corp. Another portion will be used to create a park connection between downtown Struthers and Yellow Creek Park.

One of the four grants awarded to Trumbull County Land Reutilization Corp. will be key to redevelopment of another port authority-controlled property. A $300,000 grant will be used to assess 200 acres at the west side of the former BDM Steel property in Warren. The 200-acre site was added to 800 acres that the port authority had agreed to accept previously but it had not undergone the environmental assessments and remediation of the larger site.

The assessment will determine any remaining contamination from the site’s history as part of a steel mill.

“That site is key from a logistics standpoint,” Lown said. “It’s across the bridge from the main site and it connects to the roadways going out to Lordstown and Interstate 80.”

The Trumbull Land Bank also received cleanup and remediation grants of $1.73 million for the site of the 69,000-square-foot former General Electric plant building in Niles. Cleveland Steel Container Corp. plans to purchase the property after remediation and build an additional 120,000-square-foot building to accommodate its operations.

A second cleanup-remediation grant the land bank received will be used for the site of the former Warren gasification plant, which will be marketed for residential, commercial or industrial development after cleanup.

Trumbull County also received a $55,382 assessment grant for 999 Pine Ave., an office building across from the BDM site that, following assessment any needed remediation, “will support a net-zero energy research and development headquarters,” according to state documents.

For the past 12 years, the state required there to be an end user for cleanup sites to be eligible for the cleanup funds,” said Shawn Carvin, Trumbull Land Bank executive director. These grants will allow the sites to be cleaned up and be available for future development.

“All three are great projects for the county,” he said. “We’re cleaning sites, we’re creating jobs and we’re addressing environmental hazards.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.