Champaign County seeks $1.5M grant to clean up eyesore

Local leaders are going after a $1.5 million grant from JobsOhio to pay for part of the cost to clean up at a longtime eyesore in Urbana.

The money would cover demolition and cleanup costs at the roughly 20-acre, former Q3 manufacturing property at Miami and Beech streets. They’ll know if they’ll receive the funding next week, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic Partnership.

The property has been a nuisance for years. City leaders agreed to take it over under the conditions that overdue taxes were cleared off the books, and that the city can find funding to tear it down and clean up contamination.

City officials have been working on the project for more than three years and have hit numerous roadblocks along the way, Urbana Mayor Bill Bean said.

“I don’t want to drop it,” Bean said of the project. “If you do that, it ends up back with the owner and you have to start all over again.”

A developer has expressed interest in the site, but groundwater contamination and other concerns at the site need to be addressed before taking any further action.

“We’re doing everything we can to get this property handled and cleaned up so we can get it back into production,” Bean said.

The JobsOhio Redevelopment Pilot Program focuses on projects in which the cost of redevelopment is more than the value of the land, according to information from the state.

Bailey described the grant as a pilot program similar to the Clean Ohio Fund. The grant wouldn’t guarantee new jobs, she said, but would at least help prepare the site for possible development in the future.

If approved, local officials would have 24 months to make the property ready for development, Bailey said.

“We have to do something with this property,” Bean said.

The CEP is also seeking state funding with assistance from FASTLANE, a manufacturing extension partnership affiliated with the University of Dayton, Bailey said.

The CEP is seeking a grant to study how to retain engineers who work for companies in Champaign County. Representatives from several area companies have highlighted the challenge at the county’s human resources manufacturer’s council, Bailey said.

Engineers often work at local manufacturing firms either through internships or soon after graduating from college. But in many cases, those employees move on to other regions after graduation or after gaining a few years experience, Bailey said.

The study would allow the CEP to have a better understanding of how to keep those skilled workers in Champaign County, Bailey said.

Officials with FASTLANE won’t know whether funding is available for the project until the fall, Bailey said.

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