East Liverpool Gets $1.1M Brownfield Grant for School Site

Update 12:34 p.m. | Corrected the first round total to $60 million, not $90 million
EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – A $1.1 million brownfield remediation grant was awarded Tuesday to the Columbiana County Land Reutilization Corp., more commonly known as the Land Bank, by Lt. Gov. John Husted to be used for remediation and demolition of the former East Junior High School in the city’s East End.

During an afternoon press conference attended by state, county and city officials, Husted said he and Gov. Mike DeWine conceived the brownfield remediation grant program during the pandemic to “help kick-start re-development of our communities.”

A total of $350 million was made available through the 2021 state biannual budget on a first come, first served basis to communities and entities that apply. In this first round of funding, $60 million was available. While Husted was in East Liverpool announcing this award, he said DeWine was making the rounds in Mansfield and Canton, awarding similar grants.

County Commissioner Mike Halleck introduced Husted, calling him a “good friend to Columbiana County.”

The funding program, Husted explained, will help communities acquire brownfield sites, assess them for contamination, remediate hazardous substances and prepare them for economic development.
The brownfield remediation program is part of the Ohio Builds mission focused on infrastructure.

Husted said there is great interest in the program, particularly in relation to the announcement that microchip manufacturer Intel is investing more than $20 billion to construct a plant in the Columbus area.

“The largest economic development project in the free world is happening in Ohio with Intel picking Ohio to build semiconductors here,” Husted said. “We’re getting a lot of calls from a lot of places. Businesses want to locate in Ohio, but they need to go now. Businesses want to expand and these sites need cleaned up and turned into opportunities.”

The former junior high school on Maryland Avenue was built in 1954 and operated as a school until 1982 after which it was open sporadically for a variety of uses until it permanently closed in 2017.

The property was swapped in 2012 by the city school district to the city for land near Pope Street, and the city transferred ownership of the property to the Community Improvement Corporation last September for development purposes.

Once the building is remediated and razed, the six-acre parcel can be used for many purposes, Husted pointed out. “It can be used for business development, residential housing, a sporting complex, a park, or anything else the community finds of value and just doesn’t have the money to get started,” he said.

The grant program will operate until the entire $350 million is claimed. “It doesn’t have to stop here. You can go for another round for other important projects. Let the revitalization begin.,” Husted said.

Also speaking at the press event was state Sen. Michael Rulli, who said one of his first steps after being elected was touring the district and seeing large number of brownfields and dilapidated houses that needed addressed before development could take place.

While touring the city with Mayor Greg Bricker, Rulli said he found different resources not being used due to blight, and one in particular he noted was the abandoned school, where he and the mayor spent an entire Saturday cleaning up with their sleeves rolled up.

“The mayor’s idea was to raze the building and create something brand new,” Rulli said.

Calling it a “big day for East Liverpool,” Bricker said his first priority when elected was to rid the area of blight, saying the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. conducted a survey recognizing the city’s dilapidated and abandoned houses as well as brownfields.

Bricker thanked Columbiana County commissioners for putting up the city’s share of the $1.1 million grant as well as DeWine and Husted. “Without (them) this would not be possible. There are people fighting for small town East Liverpool in Columbus, and I can’t thank them enough,” he said.

Bricker said the possibilities for the Maryland Avenue property are “endless.” Various ideas are being considered and that to bring young people back to the city, it has to offer the amenities they want, he said.

Asked when work might begin on the property, Bricker said the project has been a partnership with the county Land Bank, and they will get “back to work” following announcement of the grant funding.

After the press conference, CIC President Pat Scafide said bids will have to go out for the remediation and demolition on the property, but he anticipates work might be complete by fall.

Penny Traina, executive director of the Columbiana County Port Authority, spoke on the importance of the land bank program to the county. She recognized program executive Director Hayden Panezott and county economic development Director Tad Herold, saying there is considerable collaboration between the three departments as well as with state, county and local officials.

Traina also thanked DeWine and Husted for having the foresight to recognize the importance of the Brownfield remediation program.

Speaking on the residential aspect of the Land Bank program was Thompson Avenue resident Jay Crago who purchased and rehabilitated a house through the program. It took more than a year to finish it, he said, but neighbors watched with excitement as the project took shape.

Upon completion, the house was sold to a family who then resold it for a $30,000 profit.

“The profit isn’t the important part,” Crago said. “It makes me feel good to see people come back here. Overall, it’s a really good program and obviously, money coming from the state to continue it is crucial.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.