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Port authority research shows impact on property values when brownfields are cleaned

A study carried out by a Western Reserve Port Authority intern shows property values increased 18 percent in five years around former Mahoning County brownfield sites that were cleaned.

And it shows property values adjacent to brownfield sites that had not been cleaned were 66 percent lower than properties one mile away.

Brownfields are industrial or commercial properties with perceived or real contamination, such as the former St. Joseph Riverside Hospital, said Sarah Lown, public-finance manager for the port authority’s economic-development team, called the Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Agency.

The study produced results similar to what has been observed in other industrial areas with brownfields, Lown said – that cleaning brownfields encourages investment in cities, decreases the amount of abandoned and vacant properties and increases the tax base.

It was carried out by Youngstown State University student Greta Frost.

The study is an effort to make Ohio policy makers aware the state still collects money from Ohio taxpayers voters approved in a statewide bond issue to clean up brownfields, Lown said.

But the money was placed several years ago under the control of a quasi-public state economic-development agency called JobsOhio, and its new rules prevent the money from being used to clean up many of the Valley’s brownfields.

Lown was probably the most-successful economic-development professional in Ohio at using Clean Ohio funds to clean up former industrial properties in Mahoning County, said Lown’s boss, Anthony Trevena, NEODFA director.

But JobsOhio only allows Clean Ohio money to be used for cleanups in which the project will lead to reuse for manufacturing jobs, Lown said.

The St. Joseph’s property is an example of a brownfield site that will never be used for manufacturing but it still needs a $9 million cleanup. There are no funds available to clean up the facility, so the property values around it are dropping, Lown said.

Lown said the port authority is hoping to increase awareness of the unavailability of Clean Ohio funds for cleanups that could encourage more job-creating opportunities and increasing property values here. It would be beneficial if this became part of the discussion in the next race for Ohio governor, she said.

The port authority, at its meeeting Wednesday, also approved a preliminary capital lease with MSTC Development of Warren to help it construct an 85-unit assisted-living facility on the west side of Niles-Cortland Road just north of the overpass at state Route 82 in Howland.

It will be called Ashton Springs Assisted Living Center and will be 80,000 square feet on a 6.25-acre site. It is expected to employ about 50 people.

The $12 million project will create 53 assisted-living units and 32 memory-care units. It is being developed by Michael Slyk of Howland and Tim Chesney of Canfield, who have developed three similar facilities in Canton, Sandusky and Shaker Heights.

(Published August 19, 2016 by Ed Runyan, Vindicator)