Jeep Parkway Master Plan Unveiled
By Kevin Milliken, Special to La Prensa
Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority leaders joined local and state development officials Thursday afternoon to announce a master plan to guide the future of the former Jeep plant that was demolished in recent years.
The port authority obtained the 110-acre site several months ago, then applied for and received two Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grants totaling $4.5 million to remediate the property, which sets the stage for turning the brownfield into a developable real estate parcel again. The port authority also has received a $1.3 million federal HUD grant to cover some of the expenses associated with the purchase and remediation of the site.
Paul Toth, port authority president/CEO told the gathering that federal officials are interested in the plan as a “signature project” for auto communities, of which Toledo is considered, to help them “redevelop and redefine” themselves. The Obama administration has set aside stimulus grants to assist those auto communities, which could mean Toledo will be in line for further federal grants in the future to help build some of the seven warehouse/manufacturing buildings planned for the Jeep Parkway site. The federal departments of energy, transportation, and Economic Development Administration have sent officials to the site to speak with local leaders.
“We believe this property will ultimately fill a much-needed hole in our community,” Toth said. “This is really the signature piece of property we have here in Northwest Ohio for industrial development.”
Economic development leaders tout the property’s central location and proximity to I-75/I-475 and two major rail lines. Their efforts will be primarily focused on attracting manufacturing operations to the site, but the master plan also leaves the possibility of warehousing and logistics facilities. Construction on the first building could start sometime in the fall.
“It is actually a true example of how we’re starting to come together and work together toward the same process,” said Mayor Mike Bell, who also told the crowd local leaders are beginning to see success because they’ve learned how to “take the politics out of things.”
The mayor also called the Jeep Parkway property a “shovel-ready site” and explained his view of “how critical this piece of property is to the turnaround of Toledo.”
Toth echoed the mayor’s sentiment, touting the property as “worth taking the risk.”
Matt Sapara, port authority real estate manager, recounted the historical significance of the former Jeep property, telling the crowd of 50 local officials that, at one time, the property was
· Responsible for 40 percent of all the income earned by city of Toledo residents;
· The second-largest automotive manufacturing facility in the world; and
· The longest-serving automotive manufacturing facility in the U.S.
All of that manufacturing activity left plenty of hazardous materials on site, some of it buried underground. An environmental hazard survey revealed the damage was not as extensive as first feared. The Bell administration provided a $340,000 revolving loan to clean up the most serious chemical contamination on site. It was also discovered that some of the plant’s former buildings had foundations five feet thick. That concrete will be crushed and reused on site during the redevelopment process.
The Overland Park development, as it is likely to become known, already has its first tenant. State Paper and Metal, a Central Ave.-based recycling company, has agreed to purchase 10-15 acres at the southwest corner of the site for an expansion project expected to create 22 jobs.
The master plan was created by the Toledo Regional Architects, Contractors, and Engineers, an industry cluster of 24 local firms formed two years ago and designed to foster partnership and collaboration among companies that were once competitors. TRACE donated its services for the redevelopment plan.
TRACE representative Don Warner called the master redevelopment plan “a true regional design and construction community effort.”
Five large and two smaller buildings in the plan would create nearly one million square feet of manufacturing space. The roof of each building would include solar panels to help power the operations within them. Each building faces east-west, with loading/unloading facilities that could accommodate trucks and rail lines that run alongside. Port authority officials stated those rail lines will be connected to the Airline Junction intermodal yard in South Toledo that is currently being expanded by Norfolk-Southern to handle more regional railroad traffic.
One of the state grants the port authority received is considered a “sustainability grant.” A 38-acre portion of the site, where Jeep plant parking lots were once located, rests in a flood plain along the Ottawa River and cannot be developed. Instead, the port authority will develop it as an urban waterfront park, with walking/hiking trails, shelters, and educational stations paying homage to the site's history. Solar arrays that will help power the site and nearby facilities also is part of the parkland design.
An old Overland smokestack left in place when the former Jeep plant was torn down will remain on site, the reason economic development officials have dubbed it Overland Park.
The Jeep Parkway site is the fourth vacant industrial property the port authority has purchased in the past decade, part of a strategy to stockpile sites no one wants, clean them up, and put together a portfolio of properties for potential employers.