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Amid 'shortage' of industrial sites, seven in Hamilton County get money for clean up

Intel investment in central Ohio seen as an opportunity
Former Dow Chemical site
Posted at 8:17 PM, Aug 02, 2022

READING — Seven former industrial sites with names familiar to generations of Tri-State families are considered toxic. Those sites will get millions of state dollars for clean-up and redevelopment as the region prepares for a tech giant's entry to the north.

"That's where we come in," said Todd Castellini, The Port's vice president of public finance and industrial development. "We sit kind between the public and private sectors to clean up property."

The Port of Greater Cincinnati owns or manages all the properties and received more than $12 million in Ohio Department of Development Brownfield Remediation grants this year.

That includes $2.4 million for the Crosley Building in Camp Washington, which will have asbestos and lead paint removed for residential redevelopment. The Lunkenheimer Foundry in South Fairmount received more than $1.7 million after the EPA declared it a threat several years ago. The former Dow Chemical site in Reading received more than $5.3 million in clean-up money.

Former Crosley building
The former Crosley building in Camp Washington received more than $2.4 million for remediation before it could be turned into residences.

"The first process is to demo and remediate above ground and then the second process is to demo and remediate below ground, it's very complicated," Castellini said. "There's a lot of contaminants so that's going to be a challenging, complicated piece of real estate, but we can do it."

The 25-acre site has been empty since 2014. The Port acquired it in 2019 and has been working with the city and Neyer Properties on getting it cleaned up and ready for a new tenant since.

"You can see there's still old drums," said Reading mayor Robert 'Bo' Bemmes as he walked WCPO through the site.

Bemmes' great grandfather built the neighborhood that borders the old manufacturing facility on West Street. Now, there are ball fields on part of the property, right next to the city's pool and fieldhouse. The facility's closure changed things in Reading.

"It was $120,000 a year we lost in earnings tax revenue, which is big for us," Bemmes said. "We're not the City of Cincinnati."

The Port, the City and Neyer believe new manufacturing development on the site could bring in up to 400 high-paying jobs and half a million dollars in revenue for the City. But, there's been no interest in it, because of the toxic chemicals once made on the land that's yet to be cleaned up.

"I think everyone knew from the get-go that it was going to take remediation and demolition," Bemmes said.

Former Dow Chemical weigh station
A weigh station sits in disrepair at the former site of Dow Chemical in Reading.

The Port said its location, along the Mill Creek off I-75 and close to the Ronald Reagan Cross-County Highway, makes it desirable. That, and its size.

"We don't have enough industrial property," Castellini said.

With Intel building a "mega-site" for semiconductor chips in Licking County in central Ohio, there is opportunity for the southwest corner of the state to draw in suppliers and ancillary businesses in coming years - if there's space.

"Before Intel even got here, we knew we didn't have enough inventory," Castellini said. "We were definitely missing out on opportunities. Site selectors come to this area every year."

In fact, The Port had a group of investors in to hear - and see - the work it does and projects it is working on in July.

Regardless of who shows interest in the Dow Chemical site, the City of Reading hopes the new state grants can make that land ready for redevelopment — and new money.

"What's the dream? Really, though, jobs. Good jobs for people and the revenue we bring from it," said Bemmes.

Remediation of that site, like many of the others, is expected to years and more financing beyond the state grants.

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