Sunday, August 17, 2003

Lockland fixing up deserted industry

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOCKLAND - Village officials are building a future out of the past.

Long known as a manufacturing hub, Lockland has fallen on hard times as manufacturers that used to make up the bulk of the village's tax base face bankruptcy, and factories sit abandoned.

But that is changing. The village has eight abandoned industrial sites, known as "brownfields," that are being cleaned up and put back on the market.

Village officials have used state and federal dollars to leverage more than $10 million for the redevelopment over the past five years. The village was the first in Ohio to receive money from the "Clean Ohio" fund, a $400 million program created in 2000 to target brownfield redevelopment around the state.

Mayor Jim Brown said his village has become one of the most aggressive communities in Ohio at pursuing money for brownfield redevelopment. That aggression is the result of desperation, he said.

"We're still struggling right now, but down the road this redevelopment will mean a lot," Brown said. "We'll see a return of jobs lost through the closing of plants that were in Lockland for 150 years or more."

Along with those jobs will return a higher tax base and a better quality of life, Brown said.

Village Administrator Evonne Korach said the redevelopment movement really started before the Clean Ohio program. The village used U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funds to test several abandoned sites to find out the extent of contaminated soil and groundwater.

As it turned out, that type of testing is required before a community can even apply for Clean Ohio funds.

"We received about $350,000 in federal money for our assessments, so we were ready when the Clean Ohio program came out," Korach said.

Lockland's brownfield projects include:

• The Sterns Complex: This former textile manufacturing hub of 1.5 million square feet sits on 14 acres. The village has secured more than $609,000 to perform environmental testing so that it can apply for Clean Ohio funds to redevelop the property.

• American Tissue Mills: It sits on six acres and has been purchased by the village. Demolition of the buildings is nearly complete and one company has committed to building on a portion of the site and will create 45 jobs. The village acquired this property through eminent domain because of its central location.

• Millcreek Sports and Commerce Park: On 32 acres is a former incinerator that used to provide steam for lock operations on the Miami Erie Canal. Initial environmental testing is complete and the village is negotiating a partnership to redevelop the site with a private owner.


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