Sunday, March 05, 2000

Former BASF site to become retail location

Xavier parking also in plan

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For almost 10 years, the large lot at the corner of Montgomery and Dana avenues in Evanston has been vacant, a grim reminder of the explosion of the BASF chemical manufacturing plant that had occupied the site. But the property is on the verge of a rebirth.

        Plans announced Saturday call for retail and other businesses to be built on 21/2 acres at the corner of Montgomery and Dana and for a parking lot for the Xavier University's Cintas Center to be built on the remaining part of the 6.7-acre lot.

        In an agreement completed two days ago, BASF Corp. donated the lot to Xavier, and Xavier is leasing the 21/2 acres at the corner to Cincinnati for $1 per year. BASF gave $75,000 to Xavier toward the cost of grading and building the parking lot for its new multipurpose arena.

        “You have changed a tragedy into an opportunity,” the Rev. James Hoff, S.J., Xavier president, told BASF officials during a press conference Saturday at the site.

        On July 19, 1990, the explosion of the BASF plant killed one person, injured 72 and damaged 17,000 homes and businesses within a 3-mile radius.

        The site had to undergo an extensive cleanup to get rid of hazardous chemicals and petroleum compounds. Residents of Evanston, a neighborhood that has struggled to attract

        new businesses and retain existing ones, worried about what would happen to the site.

        But those concerns were washed away Saturday amid smiles, handshakes, and balloons in blue and white, Xavier's colors.

        “Now people will see something positive happening in our community,” said Sharon Muyarya, president of Evanston Community Council.

        Father Hoff, Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken and City Manager John Shirey praised BASF for donating the site instead of selling it to private interests.

        “We are pleased this property will be put to good use,” Mayor Luken said. “It should be a good addition to Evanston and provide jobs for people in the neighborhood.”

        Frank McKulka, president of BASF's coatings and colorants division, said that in view of the suffering caused by the explosion, the company wanted to do what would most help the community.

        “The impact of that tragedy never fades from our minds,” he said.

        The city will seek proposals from private developers for the commercial portion of the site, Mr. Shirey said.

        No timetable has been established yet for the development, he said.


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