Urbana joins the neighboring cities of Springfield, Bellefontaine, Marysville, London, Sidney, Piqua and Troy in being named a Tree City USA for 2018. As part of this nationwide program, Ohioans last year planted more than 24,000 trees, pruned more than 77,000 trees, volunteered more than 42,000 hours in their urban forestry programs and invested a combined total of more than $40 million toward urban forestry efforts.
Trees provide multiple benefits to a community when properly planted and maintained. They help to improve the visual appeal of a neighborhood, increase property values, reduce home cooling costs, remove air pollutants, and provide wildlife habitat, among many other benefits.
Urbana’s Shade Tree Commission is comprised of the following members who serve in an advisory and supporting role to city staff in the city’s urban forest management efforts: Jim Lemon, Ward Lutz, Earl Cottrill, John Kussman, Colin Stein and Doug Crabill. In 2018, members of the commission volunteered in excess of 115 hours.
Currently, the seat representing the 1st ward on the commission is vacant. Residents interested in being appointed can contact Mayor Bill Bean or their city council representative.
The Arbor Day observance and celebration for 2019 will be held this month at the new Urbana Elementary School campus.
By Christopher Selmek, Urbana Daily Citizen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Developers are hopeful that the former Q3 JMC Inc. property at 605 Miami St. will be ready to use later this year, with nearly three-quarters of the Johnson Manufacturing building already leased to various companies, according to True Inspection Services Vice President Joe Timm. Urbana-based TIS is just one company looking forward to taking up residence in the 32,000-square-foot building while continuing to direct the remediation of the 20-acre site.
“Right now we have a contractor that’s doing most of the work and finishing up the remediation,” Timm said in February. “That should be done probably in the next 90 days, and then at that point we’ll apply for the covenant not to sue with the (Environmental Protection Agency), which will probably take another 60-90 days. Once we get that, then at that point we can start some of the redevelopment of the actual building itself.”
TIS currently maintains offices at 871 S. Main St., the old Buckles Building, but plans to move to the Johnson Building later this summer. A door manufacturer from Kentucky also plans to establish warehouse space there, which Timm says will create a handful of local jobs.
“We’ve had at least three people go in that building,” said Champaign Economic Partnership Director Marcia Bailey. “Right now you look at it and it looks ugly because it’s got the metal skin on it, but you get in that building and it’s gorgeous. It’s got the big brick in it and the beams, and it’s a gorgeous building.”
Five acres at the rear of the property have never been built on. At the west side, the CEP is looking at a potential opportunity to clean up Ann Street and Beech Street, depending on the end user and if the city wants to maintain them. The entire property is zoned manufacturing, and Bailey said her plan is to market it as such and eventually get every inch possible utilized as manufacturing space.
The east side of the property will belong to TIS, which the company will continue to redevelop and for which lessees will be sought.
“All in total it’s about 20 acres of manufacturing that’s sitting there in the heart of Urbana on a US highway, so it’s prime location,” Bailey said.
“Then we were trying to find someone who would honestly take the risk and the task on to help us get it cleaned up, and that’s when Joe contacted us to see what’s going on and how he might be able to help.”
The Q3 JMC property has not been fully utilized since the company ceased manufacturing operations there in 2008. The city of Urbana officially took ownership of the property in May 2017 through a tax foreclosure process and shortly thereafter obtained a $883,947 grant through a JobsOhio Redevelopment Pilot Program to perform demolition, environmental remediation, asbestos abatement, removal and disposal of waste and site preparation. “Historically it was a manufacturing operation, Q3 Stamp Metal, which had purchased the Johnson Manufacturing Company, so they called it Q3 JMC,” said Community Development Manager Doug Crabill.
“It basically became an abandoned property, the taxes accumulated, and suffered quite a bit of vandalism. Then we had a fire caused by arson that destroyed part of the remaining buildings on Miami. Part of the site was under findings and orders with the Ohio EPA, so we got those findings and orders released, but part of getting those released is to complete the cleanup work that’s being done.”
Honeywell International Inc. recently completed remediation of groundwater contamination in a four-acre section on the west side of the property. Honeywell became liable for the former Grimes Aerospace Plastic Research Products contamination when it acquired the Grimes company.
“Honeywell’s scope was limited to VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) remediation,” said Crabill. “That was what they agreed to participate and assist with as far as that part of the cleanup and that was isolated to a small area in the back of the site. They essentially removed quite a bit of soil and had it hauled away and put back-fill in, and then they’ve installed monitoring wells. What they are trying to demonstrate is that they’ve cleaned up the source of the VOC contamination, so therefore then the groundwater is clean in that area again.”
TIS also removed an 800-gallon diesel storage tank and, according to Crabill, the city received a letter from the Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations that no further action is needed in that area of the property.
TIS recently completed asbestos remediation work in the Johnson building.
According to Crabill, the presence of asbestos was a major reason that several of the structures were not kept, along with damage from a 2015 fire ruled an act of arson by the state Fire Marshal’s Office.
“The structures that were not kept were in a state that they just couldn’t be put back,” he said. “A good period had passed since the time they closed until the time we were able to take ownership of the site, and I think all of the roofs were at the end of their useful life even back when they were in business, so by the time we got in a lot of the water damage had already set in on a lot of the structures.”
Bailey stated her appreciation for TIS doing their due diligence to oversee the project, adding that they would not hand the property over to a buyer until they were certain there were no longer any hazards involved.
“It is a true partnership because all of the entities had responsibilities,” she said. “The city does, Honeywell had their responsibility, and at the end of the day, then, the responsibility is on True Inspection to be able to get it cleaned up and ready for the city to apply for the VAP agreement - Voluntary Action Plan - and then we start marketing.
We’re already marketing, Joe and I have already had more than one person down there looking at that space.”
“The Ohio EPA has a Voluntary Action Program - VAP - and essentially it’s a program where a volunteer steps up and is willing to bring a property up to a certain environmental standard that Ohio EPA has developed,” said Crabill. “They have a certified professional that oversees that, the city has one of those who oversees this, and he prepares all the documentation of all the remediation that’s been done and certifies that the site is clean under rules of the VAP. As a result of that, there is a covenant not to sue that’s issued by Ohio EPA as a result of all the work that’s been done to clean up the site. It’s a good tool for property redevelopment so that sites like this don’t sit idle because they can’t be cleaned up.”
“We’re excited at the opportunity,” said Timm. “We’ve made good progress, and it’s taken a little longer than we anticipated, but with any time there’s environmental cleanup there’s unforeseen items that come up. But we’re making good progress and we anticipate getting a covenant not to sue this summer, starting renovation in the fall, and having people moved in and have some new jobs created by the end of the year, start of next year.”
The property is currently divided into about 26 parcels which Bailey said will need to be consolidated before they can be sold. Bailey said she hopes to have a buyer within six months; anyone interested may contact the CEP at (937) 653-7200.
Key development projects
Thanks to economic development investments by private businesses working with the CEP, Urbana – for the first time ever – ranked 41st in the Site Selection magazine’s 2017 list of top U.S. micropolitan communities.
Recent successes include the new Navistar distribution center, Memorial Health’s medical building, expansion of Weidmann Electrical Technology, opening of Nutrien Ag Solutions, Sutphen Corporation’s new Service, Parts and Refurbishment Center, expansion of Old Souls Farms hydroponic operations, expansion of Advanced Technology Products and purchase of the former Robert Rothschild Farm property.
Champaign County manufacturing jobs have grown from under 3,000 jobs in 2013 to nearly 4,000 in 2018.
Major projects for 2019 include:
The CEP is partnering with schools and businesses in numerous ways to help make sure Champaign County has the skilled workforce required by new and expanding businesses.
Results of these partnerships include:
For more information, call the CEP at 937-653-7200 or browse CEPOhio.com.
An abandoned site can be a significant safety and financial liability to a community. Urbana’s 605 Miami Street was just that.
Vacant since 2008, the once thriving manufacturing site became a community eyesore and was prone to persistent vandalism. But its prime location and existing utilities had too much potential for Urbana. The community sought out partners to revitalize the site, including much-needed financial support from JobsOhio.
A Major Undertaking
The former home of Q3 and Johnson Manufacturing had everything a company would want: space; nearby highways; proximity to major cities; current and future rail service; and existing utilities, including water, sewer, gas, and electric, thus making it an ideal site for revitalization.
Many companies were interested in the site, but costs to clean it up were a deterrent. The property needed an overhaul to eliminate the ongoing threats to public health, safety and the environment for it to be a viable site. The Journey BackCleanup began in 2015, but the magnitude of remediation needed was beyond what Urbana could accomplish on its own. A collaborative including JobsOhio, Honeywell International Inc., the Dayton Development Coalition, True Inspection Services, the Champaign Economic Partnership and the Champaign County Board of Revision was able to take the project to the next step.
Compelled by the potential for economic impact, JobsOhio committed almost $890,000 from the JobsOhio Redevelopment Pilot Program toward demolition, environmental remediation, asbestos abatement, removal and disposal of waste, and site preparation.
After months of hard work, the remediation is almost complete and final permitting is anticipated to reach the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency by May 2019. Once received, the site will be marketed nationally to attract a new tenant. Because of Urbana’s dedication to the site and the community, it successfully led a movement to turn an abandoned area into an economic opportunity.
To date, JobsOhio has committed over $240 million in revitalization, leveraging an additional $11 billion in capital investment and creating more than 15,500 jobs in Ohio. JobsOhio is committed to working with communities across Ohio to revitalize abandoned properties and return them to sources of job creation and economic growth.
(This article appeared on page 22 in the 2018 JobsOhio Annual Report. To view the entire Annual Report, click below.
Nearly $30 million in new projects were started in 2017 in Springfield, down to $16.8 million in 2018. But much of the investment and construction on permits spilled over into the next year as major projects can take years to complete.
“Just because you see the number and the valuation down in 2018 does not mean necessarily that the economy was down,” said Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development. “It just means the timing may have been in 2017 when the permits were filed.”
In 2017, the city pulled 519 permits, but it pulled nearly triple that number at 1,533 last year, despite the sharp decline in total valuation. During a healthy economy, there’s typically an uptick in activity, but it doesn’t always translate to dollar value, he said.
“Depending on the types of expansion , they may have a little bit less valuation necessarily than a new construction, s o I think it’s really the type of investment versus the volume,” Hobbs said.
Instead of high dollar new construction, 2018 was full of several smaller permits like remodels at Walmart and Kroger, leading to the large number of permits despite lower values.
The economy saw strong growth in 2017 and many businesses began investing money in the Miami Valley, including Clark and Champaign counties.
“They had the extra funding or whatever was needed, so they took advantage of it in that year,” Jene Gaver, Springfield’s chief building official.
Several big projects boosted values across the region, including Wittenberg’s $40 million indoor athletic facility and Topre’s $55 million expansion in Springfield.
In Champaign County, more than $70 million in permits were filed in 2017 including Navistar’s $12 million manufacturing warehouse, a new Memorial Health facility, renovations on a new ColePak building and additions at KTH Parts Industries and Weidmann Electrical Technology, said Marcia Bailey, economic development director for the Champaign Economic Partnership.
In 2018, Champaign’s permits dropped to $2.6 million in valuation.
“It’s just that the big projects did happen in ‘17 with openings in ‘18 and then for ‘18 we didn’t really have major projects going on, but I think we’re going to see more permits this year again,” said Bailey.
Looking into 2019
Springfield leaders echoed Bailey’s optimism, with Gaver saying he expects 2019 to outpace 2017. In 2018. the permits were smaller sprinkler, fire alarm and mechanical permits that followed the major construction values of 2017.
“It’s just timing, honestly. I project that in 2019 we’re going to see an uptick because there are a couple of bigger projects that are continuing into 2019,” Hobbs said.
Last year, Topre announced plans of another $73 million expansion. Along with the growth comes 138,000 square feet and 204 jobs at the Champion City Business Park. Topre has had back-to-back expansions since it first built in the city in late 2016.
Silfex also plans to finish its $223 million facility in 2019. When complete, the project will add 400 total jobs to Springfield.
A major housing development near the Tuttle Road Walmart could bring 226 new homes as well. Construction could begin as early as March or April on the 37 acres with homes meant to handle increased hiring in the region.
Other projects include a second phase to senior housing Community Gardens and a $5.5 million parking garage with funds from the state, county and city.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on . I mean , it’s just we’re constantly busy,” Gaver said.
Local investors in Champaign County are working on a proposal for a new Cobblestone hotel in Urbana. Mercy Hospital in Urbana is also continuing facade changes.
A potential downtown project could turn an Urbana building, along with North and South Elementary schools, into affordable senior housing. If that project develops, it could redevelop a longtime eyesore downtown, find a new use for two of the school district’s aging buildings and provide more senior housing options for residents.
“If we see this hotel start being built , we’re hoping that’s going to spur more activity along that same corridor,” Bailey said.
How development impacts Springfield
Higher permit values are a good thing because they often represent more real estate taxes. Many of the big values that received incentives are about to expire, so the counties could pull more taxes, Bailey said. But it’s also a trade off because some new projects could also receive incentives.
“If you’ve got these high permits, usually it means you’ve got manufacturing coming in,” Gaver said. “When manufacturing comes in, it means more people; more people means more housing, so it just kind of trickles down.”
When commercial is up, usually residential is down and vice versa, but Hobbs said he expects both the be up in 2019 when hundreds of jobs could come to Springfield.
“The more money that’s generated here in the city of Springfield , the more people to come in here and spend money , the more places will be open up and survive,” Gaver said.
Even though permit values didn’t have high dollar values in 2018, it doesn’t mean the companies weren’t expanding and improving, Hobbs said.
“There is investment that goes on in companies that may not actually require the point of a permit , but that doesn’t mean that they’re not investing in , you know , infrastructure or they’re not investing in equipment or those kinds of things,” he said.
Clark County, which has its own building department had $14.6 million invested in permits last year, down slightly from the $15 million in 2017.
Parts of the planned $43 million Speedway expansion could also show up 2019 permits, boosting those values. The expansion could bring 200 new full-time workers over the next few years.
“There’s no science still , you know, it’s just like doing your budget , you kind of guess what’s coming in ,” Gaver said.
Local permit values
The Springfield News-Sun is committed to covering business and economic development in Clark and Champaign counties.