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$1.8M Springfield park to open next month

Springfield leaders hope to lure up to 500 jobs to former truck plant site.

City leaders have approved more money to finish a new $1.8 million industrial park that could bring 300 to 500 jobs to the area.

Work now is expected to be completed by Aug. 30 for the park at the former International Harvester body plant on Lagonda Avenue.

More than $12 million in grants and private dollars have been spent on demolition, remediation and infrastructure at the site since 2003.

City commissioners voted 5-0 this week to add approximately $200,000 to the project to pave Reaper Avenue and Lowell Street in the 32-acre light industrial development.

Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and director of economic development, said construction has been delayed due to the recent weather, but he believes the infrastructure will be completed by the end of August.

“Everything is proceeding accordingly,” Franzen said.

City engineer Leo Shanayda said extra sewer work and rock excavation was needed as the project moved forward.

“It’s going slower than anticipated,” Shanayda said, “but that’s due to the rock excavation and, most recently, the weather we’ve encountered.”

The city is still working with a prospective tenant for the front parcel, Franzen said. The site could bring anywhere from three to seven industrial businesses, depending on how the lots are divided on the 28.5 acres being used for development.

Franzen called the infrastructure work “a slow process.” He said there’s a lot of finish work left to be completed at the development, like sidewalks, fire hydrants and curbs.

“It’s a lot like finishing a house,” Franzen said. “By the time you get the drywall up, you get real excited and things start moving real fast, but then you realize there’s a lot of tedious work that has to be done.”

An Ohio Department of Development grant will pay for approximately $1.3 million of the infrastructure project. The rest of the money will come from the general fund.

The site was deemed ready for development by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in October of 2011. The city used about $2.5 million in state and federal grants as well as private funds from Navistar to remediate the site, which included tearing down the old body plant buildings.

Franzen said access to railroads and other roadways will be attractive to businesses. The park is two miles from Ohio 72, eight miles from the Springfield Municipal Airport, five miles from Interstate 70 and 28 miles from the Dayton International Airport.

“It’s still a decent area for manufacturing with access from Lagonda to (Ohio) 334,” Franzen said. “From a supplier perspective, it will be helpful.”

Jim Lopez, the owner of Big Jim’s Coney’s and Subs, 1948 Mitchell Blvd., believes the addition of new businesses at the park will significantly increase sales at his location. The store opened about five years ago, Lopez said, and business is slowly coming back after the departure of both the hospital from the east side and Schuler’s Bakery on Mitchell Boulevard.

“It’s going to help my business tremendously,” Lopez said.

Lopez was also hoping to work with businesses concerning food deliveries and catering.

Pamela White, the manager at Just Smokes, 1940 Mitchell Blvd., said the development will “absolutely” increase sales at the store. She expects the workers to stop in during breaks and after work.

The jobs are also much needed in the neighborhood, White said.

“We need something more in this area,” White said.

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