The City of Akron is slated to get $1.9 million from the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund, or CORF, operated by the Ohio Department of Development, to remove asbestos from the historic Landmark Building.
The Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund is a competitive program operating across the state to provide communities with grants (up to $3 million total) to remediate brownfield properties, which are defined under legislation as commercial or industrial properties contaminated with hazardous waste whose cleanup is essential in order to reuse or repurpose structures and land.
The Landmark Building cleanup is being funded under Round 8, whose applications were due in July, with projects awarded in November.
The funding, announced Nov. 20 through Governor Ted Strickland’s office, will provide asbestos remediation to the 12-story downtown office building, located at 156 S. Main Street. The building dates from 1923, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, an official list of U.S. cultural resources whose age and former use warrants preservation.
When the building is fully remediated, developer Main Street Partners LLC plans for a repurposing into upscale lofts on the upper floors, a restaurant at ground level, and retail stores, entertainment venues and office space strategically located. There will also be apartments near Lock 3 Park, a green space within the city alongside the former Ohio-Erie Canal, and the Akron Civic Theater.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $10 million, with the city chipping in half that cost. When completed, the development is expected to provide $135,000 per year in new property taxes and an additional $30,000 in income taxes, as well as 50 temporary jobs.
Main Street Partners is also interested in rehabbing six other buildings in the area, where asbestos has already been removed, at a cost to the city of about $800,000. The city of Akron approved the development in 2008. The cost for repurposing the six buildings is also estimated at about $10 million.
The city purchased the six buildings for $3.55 million in the late 1990s, and sold them to Main Street Partners for $1 each after remediation. The city had also bought the Landmark building for $2.9 million, and subsequently sold it to Landmark for $1.3 million.
Residents argue that the city is taking a loss on each sale, but in fact the city of Akron – like most cities across the U.S. – is too cash-strapped to consider renovation on its own, and unlikely to attract venture capital in the midst of recession to assist in the process.
Once the Landmark Building is cleaned up, downtown Akron residents and business people can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that the asbestos is gone. Asbestos, which was used in many construction materials throughout most of the last century, is the only known cause of malignant mesothelioma, a particularly lethal cancer of the mesothelial linings of the heart, lungs and abdomen.
Unlike other diseases, which require repeated instances of exposure to toxins, mesothelioma can be contracted during a single instance of exposure, either by breathing the loose fibers or ingesting them with swallowed saliva. Unlike some other toxins, which the body can filter and eject, asbestos fibers, once inside the body, remain inside the body, leading over the course of several decades to tumors which become so invasive that victims are generally given between a year and 18 months to survive.
The $1.9 million for Akron is about 6.7 percent of the total released by the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund for 16 environmental cleanup projects around the state. The total fund disbursement was $28 million.
Sources: Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund, Heritage Ohio