Posted: 6:00 a.m. Monday, Nov. 28, 2016

Urbana seeks ownership of longtime eyesore to start cleanup

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Urbana seeks ownership of longtime eyesore to start cleanup photo
Urbana is moving forward with plans to take ownership of former Q3 factory and clean it up/demolish it. Bill Lackey/Staff
Urbana seeks ownership of longtime eyesore to start cleanup photo
Urbana is moving forward with plans to take ownership of former Q3 factory and clean it up/demolish it. Bill Lackey/Staff
Urbana seeks ownership of longtime eyesore to start cleanup photo
Urbana is moving forward with plans to take ownership of former Q3 factory and clean it up/demolish it. Bill Lackey/Staff

By Katherine Collins

Staff Writer

The city of Urbana wants to take ownership of the former Q3 factory to start an estimated $2.2 million cleanup after the property has been vacant for almost a decade.

The factory, 605 Miami St., abruptly closed in 2008, Urbana City Administrator Kerry Brugger said, and became a hot spot for drug trafficking, theft and vandalism. A majority of the structure on the 20-acre property was damaged by fire in 2015. Fire marshals suspected it was arson.

“It’s just a building that is not safe,” he said. “It’s not secured properly to keep people out, and we just do not want anybody to get hurt.”

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An attempt to set the building on fire was also made just three months ago, Brugger said.

“It’s just something we can’t afford to let happen,” he said.

The city plans to demolish the remaining structure and clean up the rubble. The cost will be split between the city, a developer who’s expressed interest in the property and Honeywell, he said. Honeywell, a local company with historic ties to the site, has agreed to help pay for a portion of the environmental cleanup.

The city’s obligation toward the project will be about $350,000, Brugger said. It may need to use grants and loans to cover some of the cost, he said. But it must first take ownership of the property, Brugger said, because of its environmental issues, including ground water contamination.

“We have to take possession if we want to make it work,” he said. “No private investor is going to take it with the environmental liabilities they have.”

So far the city has invested about $100,000 in the property since 2011, he said, for legal work and environmental evaluations. The city also used a $240,000 grant in 2009 from Clean Ohio to perform preliminary evaluations on the property, Brugger said.

>>READ MORE: Champaign County seeks $1.5M grant to clean up eyesore

“It’s an investment in the community,” he said. “If we do push away from it, our investment is lost up to this point.”

And if the city does not move forward with the property transfer, he said, he’s confident it will sit for a long time. The property was already put up for sheriff’s sale and had no buyers.

The city lost many jobs because of the closing, Champaign County Economic Development Director Marcia Bailey said. And it’s important that the community continues to work together to get the property redeveloped.

“It is a huge benefit to Urbana and Champaign County to get this property cleaned and ready for redevelopment,” she said in a email.

The developer interested in the property can’t be named yet, Brugger said, but it could bring about 30 to 50 jobs to the area.

Neighbors who live near the property would like to see it put to good use.

“It’s just a waste of space,” John Vermilye said. “It’s been empty for quite a few years.”

Vermilye approves of the city’s investment, he said, as long as it proves successful.

“I like the direction they’re heading, so hopefully they’ll continue,” he said.

The Champaign County Board of Revisions must first approve the property transfer, Brugger said. He expects it will be in the city’s name in early 2017.

Changes should be noticeable in the first 18 months, he said, regarding demolition and cleanup. But he doesn’t expect a new developer to be up and running until at least 2019.


BY THE NUMBERS

$2.2 million—estimated cost of cleanup and remediation of former Q3 factory

$350,000 — obligation of the city towards cleanup project

30-50 — jobs a new developer could bring to Urbana

CONTINUED COVERAGE

The Springfield News-Sun has followed the city of Urbana’s actions closely regarding the old Q3 factory property, including its plan to request the property without having to pay back-taxes and a fire that destroyed most of the structure in 2015.

 
 

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