By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
Toledo is one of 40 finalists for a federal program that could make it easier for the city to reclaim polluted industrial land, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner plans to announce today.
Early next year, 10 of those cities will be named Brownfields Showcase Communities, making them eligible for coordinated assistance from 15 federal agencies in putting new development on abandoned land.
“This is a terrific opportunity for Toledo to show the nation what it can do in brownfield redevelopment,” said Bill Burkett, project manager for the city’s application.
Vice President Gore announced the program in May. Federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, hope to use the chosen cities as models for the rest of the United States.
More than 230 cities applied for the designation. The city will file its application for the finalist competition with the EPA today.
In the city’s application, Mr. Burkett said Toledo’s focus in redevelopment would be 350 acres immediately west of the Stickney Avenue site chosen for the new Jeep plant.
“Those areas will have to be reconsidered strongly for development, in light of what Chrysler has done,” he said.
Developing the area would require the city and private industry to address several environmental concerns, including PCB-contaminated sediment in the Ottawa River and stockpiled tires on the site.
Mr. Burkett said Toledo’s history of public/private partnerships in brownfield development – notably, the Jeep plant and Owens Corning’s new world headquarters – put the city in a good position to achieve the designation.
“I think we’ve done very well in our past work, and I think that bodes well for us,” he said. “We’re on a roll.”
Brownfield Showcase Communities will receive financial, technical, and administrative assistance in developing abandoned industrial sites.
Although there is not a grant component to the designation, Mr. Burkett said cities with the title would be given special consideration in allocation of federal funds.
“It’s usually a lot easier to get money for roads leading out to new development than to get money to redo old development,” he said.
The state of Ohio, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lucas County, Owens Corning, and about a dozen other groups have written letters of support on Toledo’s behalf to the federal government.
Other regional finalists include Kenosha, Wis.; Chicago; Pittsburgh, and Louisville.
The winners will be announced early next year.