The board will invite lenders to visit and learn about changes in environmental liability law.
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
STRUTHERS -- Pursuing funds for environmental assessments and obtaining easements for road construction tops the list of priorities for the Mahoning River Corridor of Opportunity board.
Twenty-five of the board's 32 members recently met to discuss its next step, now that a master plan for redeveloping the former steel mill site, which stretches along the Mahoning River from Youngstown through Campbell and Struthers, has been completed, said Struthers Mayor Daniel C. Mamula.
Mamula also serves as MRCO chairman.
Castlo Improvement Corp. and the city of Campbell will apply for Clean Ohio funds for additional environmental site assessments; Castlo has already applied for federal brownfield funds, Mamula said.
So far, he added, assessments have indicated no need for major remediation.
Campbell will also proceed with obtaining easements for a road within the industrial site, "which we hope will be under construction while the bridge is under construction," Mamula said. "Bridge construction will begin the end of this year and it will be complete in 2004."
The new bridge will connect Walton Avenue with the brownfield.
Although the site is near Interstate 680, Mamula continued, there is no easy access. Because highway access will be critical to businesses that will locate on the brownfield, the board will explore ways to redesign the interchange. "That's a long-term project," Mamula cautioned.
Businesses considering locating at the site will need financing, too, which has sometimes been a problem for companies considering brownfield rather than greenfield locations, Mamula said. Lenders were often hesitant to participate in projects where they could be later held responsible for environmental problems resulting from the property's former use, he explained.
But in recent years, Mamula said, "there have been significant changes in liability law. Regulations have become more relaxed and user-friendly, making it easier for buyers to obtain financing."
To bring local lenders up to date, the MRCO board will host a finance day, inviting representatives from area banks and real estate companies to visit and learn about the changes, Mamula said. Educating lenders should make obtaining financing easier for the companies that will eventually locate there, he reasoned.
The MRCO board meets every two months for bridge progress updates and quarterly to assess progress in other areas.