Community Development – Part Nine- FINI??

May 20, 2009 at 11:30 pm 2 comments

header_lorain_ohio3

This is the last in the candid, uncut interview with Mark Teleha ( Lorain County Photographers Blog) with some of the staff of Lorain’s Community Development Dept
Previous posts on the subject
Part One COMMUNITY

Part Two- APPROVED BY COUNCIL

Part three- THE DEPARTMENTS

Part four- SEPARATION OF ACCOUNTING

Part Five- THE STAFFING

Part Six – OPEN DIALOGUE- ASK THE QUESTION

Part Seven- THE MONEY

Part Eight DEVELOPING LORAIN

THE PROCESS
[ For instance] “Commerce Park was just outrageously difficult in that….”

Jan (Mackert) – Don’t ask him to give you the whole litany of…20 minutes, just on that. (laughter)

Don ( Romancak)– I mean some State grants, you can’t use them to pay sewers, so you had to make sure that when you were…certain expenses weren’t allowed with the State loan.

Chris ( Bauer)– Tell him about the archeological grid. Tell him about the grid.

Don – Oh, Wow! Well, before we even started up any of that, we were trying to figure out whether this was a viable project. Because Federal money was going to go into it, we needed a full-blown environmental assessment in accordance with the Federal regulations.

And because of how the land was never really fully developed at any time in its recent history, like, going back 200 years, we had to do an archeological survey. At first they were even talking about whether or not we had to do the landfills, we said ‘Trust me, the landfills’ been disturbed.’ You’re not going to find anything there. And then, all the other land was farmed.

I think we had pictures from the -20’s, what the vineyards looked like, and the steel mill on a small portion of the US Steel land.

They had to dig holes, every 3 meters?

Chris – They wanted to do every foot.

Don – On 200 acres! A grid of every foot you dig a pit. Are you nuts? No way, are you nuts? But since the public was footing the bill, they didn’t care.

We kept at’em, we kept negotiating, we’re not doing a foot, we’ve gotta figure something else out. We eventually got to 10 meters?

Chris – It was something like that.
archeolo SOURCE

Don – It was still a lot of pits dug! And what it was, was if they found something in one of those…… We found, in over 200 acres, we found 2 sites that were ‘of interest.’

And they weren’t eligible for national historic; the report came back ‘more investigation needed before development.’

It was like, OK, ‘we’re not developing here, we’re not developing there,’ we’ll just protect them for now. And if a company came along that needed to then we’d invest the money.

But it didn’t make sense for us, for the public, to spend the money to figure out whether or not there was really anything there. Especially when we could just say, ‘we just won’t develop here unless we have a real use.’ So that was the approach we took.

We similarly had to do a wetlands survey, a wetland delineation, file a wetland permit, we actually came up with the idea with Elmwood, where we were able to keep the wetlands in the City of Lorain.
byrdcreek_pic_benefit SOURCE

We created our own wetland bank that the City controls. And then West Nile broke out and we had a bit of a furor. And there was just a public education. It didn’t matter what we wanted to do, people were afraid and they couldn’t overcome this fear.

Those wetlands are still there, and the furor has died down, so I’m hopeful that sometime in the future, as development continues on our West Side and wherever, that people look at some of the groundwork that was laid, where, keep the wetlands within the City, added to existing assets.

We just finished a $25,000 investment to improve the trails through Elmwood, that we did fairly quietly.) Again, it’s improvements to the quality of life, and it’s also an economic development engine, to be able to replace wetlands within the City, while developing other places, and then create a nice park.

Chris – That’s just some of the things that we have to do. Make sure that everything’s done correctly. And that’s why it took so long.

Ten years, lining up funding, lining up the purchase of the site. All of our due diligence, including the archeological (survey), had to be done first, before we could take title, to the US Steel site on the East Side. It was a long, carefully thought out process.

So far, we’ve been fairly successful. You know, ten years is a long time. It’s a long term goal, a long term project. We went into this knowing it’s going to take 20 to 30 years to build this thing up.

Don – That’s the one thing, I think everybody wants stuff done now, particularly with commercial development. We have to have some patience.

On the City’s West Side, out on Baumhart, the Industrial Park that the City participated in out there, that took 15 years to fill up with those companies. Most of the land on that Industrial Parkway is full.
Riverbend_Commerce_Park Riverbend Commerce Park

The one thing that they have to remember is, this, the Riverbend Commerce Park that we’re looking at, it’s not going to get filled in 3 years, 4 years. It’s going to be a 15 to 20 year project. And it’s all going to depend on the economy. So, while we’d like to fill it up right away, the reality is: it’s going to take a while. This is not something that happens overnight.

Even getting the project to where it has…It’s taken us a while; it’s not been a perfect trip. We’ve taken a look at those, we’ve adjusted, and we still think we’ve got a real good project. The economy is down, so that doesn’t help. But the nice thing is, when it’s ready to heat back up again, we’re now well-positioned, we’re ready to move.

So it’s all in positioning yourself. Businesses are becoming a little bit more anxious. When they say ‘Hey, I’ve gotta move,’ before it used to be ‘I’ve gotta plan for two years out.’ Now, they say ‘We’ve gotta be ready to go in 6 months.’

So that’s why we’ve put that out there is so we are at that point so when we tell them ‘You need to move, we can move, here’s the timeframe.’

House_Moving

You have to position yourself to be ready for development when it’s ready to happen. Having the control of the land, the roads in there, all you need to do us put your building down, and you’re ready to go, and that’s within the timeframes of building.

Chris – That’s the best role for development departments like this one, is to make development as easy as possible. And as friendly to the business as possible.

You can’t make a company go… Well, why can’t we put Eat n’ Park here?’ Well, Eat n Park doesn’t want to go there. But if somebody wants to go there, we can make that transition, that move to our community for them as easy as possible. As beneficial to them as possible.

That’s kind of what our role is; the urban commerce park’s the best example. When that rolls open, when we really start marketing that, the economy picks up a little bit, we’re ready for them.

We have incentives we’ve tried, our IRG facility, testing them out, see how successful that is, bringing investment to Lorain. I think we’re seeing it work, and if it keeps going, we can still do it over in the Industrial Park.
lorainplantthumb SOURCE

Don – With IRG, they’ve only had that for just over a year now ( ED Note this interview originally publishednMarch of 2008)and pretty shortly here they’re going to have four, 3 – 4 good-sized companies. 200 employees, not the 1700 that they used to have.
thriftpower SOURCE

Again, we’re talking 3 million square feet is a lot to fill; it’s not going to go quickly. But if you’re patient, and the City’s willing to take the time and make the investment, eventually it’s going to pay.

But you have to show a little patience. That’s the one thing, we’d like the people to be just a little more patient. Give us the time to develop it, because you don’t want us to throw just anything in there. You want to make sure that you do the right thing.

FINI

Entry filed under: city of lorain, Link -ups.

OPEN LETTER TO DANIEL HAUSER’S MUM Roman Room – to be or not to be

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