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Brownfields into Urban Agriculture in Toledo

  • Subject: [cg] Brownfields into Urban Agriculture in Toledo
  • From: "Michael Szuberla" tgrows2@toledogarden.org
  • Date: Tue, 28 Jun 2005 15:11:35 -0400


Article published Monday, June 27, 2005

Project aims to turn eyesore into gardens
Groups have ambitious plan for old factory site


Organic vegetables, tilapia fish, and worm castings could replace crumbling
concrete, contaminated soil, and deteriorating buildings around Toledo's
closed Doehler-Jarvis factory if two community development corporations have
their way.

A $1.9 million state environmental cleanup grant the city recently applied
for to redevelop the old factory site along Smead Avenue, between Dorr and
Bancroft streets, is the first step in turning the area into an
agribusiness, community garden, and parkland.

The Ottawa Community Development Corp. and Toledo Central City Neighborhoods
plan to buy the site to develop an agribusiness in six greenhouses where
organic and "heirloom" vegetables will be grown, worm castings will be
created for fertilizer, and tilapia fish will be raised.

The site will house an education center, farmer's market, and indoor market.
Community, herb, and meditation gardens are envisioned, and a six-acre park
would be created by the city's parks, recreation, and forestry department,
said Bob Krompak, executive director of the Ottawa CDC.

Toledo Grows, an outreach program of the Toledo Botanical Garden, will run
the site for the two community development corporations.

The price tag for building the development is $6 million, including the $1.9
million grant through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Ohio
Fund, Mr. Krompak said. The contamination on the site would be removed and
clean dirt brought in if the grant is awarded.

The annual cost to run the business is being worked out, he said. The plan
for the urban agribusiness project, called GroWest, calls for neighborhood
outreach in establishing links to education programs and exposing young
people to agribusiness opportunities.

The Doehler-Jarvis factory has been an eyesore in the neighborhood along
Smead Avenue since it closed in 1991. The plant was once an industrial giant
that cast molten metal into parts for cars and other machinery.

More importantly, according to Mr. Krompak and E. Michelle Mickens,
executive director of Toledo Central City Neighborhoods, the closed plant
prevents revitalization of the neighborhood and contributes to blight.

An effort in 2003 to build homes on the land with federal housing tax
credits received low marks from the neighborhood and city officials.

Ford Weber, the city's acting real estate commissioner, said the city is
strongly behind the project which he said will be a better use for the

The directors said the current development will give the neighborhood
desperately needed green space and the agribusiness will help bring jobs,
especially for young people.

"This will get our youth involved," Ms. Mickens said. "This will bring young
people into the program and pay them while they learn."

Ms. Mickens and Mr. Krompak said several restaurants and businesses are
already interested in purchasing organic vegetables grown from the
agribusiness once it is up and running.

"This is a neat public-private partnership," Mr. Krompak said. "The staff
with the city of Toledo have helped tremendously with the project and they
have some forward-thinking people who see the value in this.

"We already have a strong greenhouse and agriculture business in northwest
Ohio. We will just be growing things in a different place," he said.

Ms. Mickens and Mr. Krompak said if the grant is approved, cleanup could
begin next spring and the project could be in operation by 2008.

One of the big hurdles to make it a reality will be funding. They said the
owner of the site, William Paxton, is selling four of 10 acres to the
community development corporations and donating six other acres.

Mr. Krompak said the CDCs already have received $22,000 from the Toledo
office of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. and the Community Development
Financial Fund.

Ms. Mickens and Mr. Krompak said they are confident the project will be
looked on favorably by foundations and by other sources they plan to
approach for funding.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) said this week she is excited about the

"We started [environmental testing of the site] a couple of years ago with
federal funds," Ms. Kaptur said. "I've always believed Toledo is a city in a
garden. This proposal is so perfect. They have got a proposal to build a
community food system to provide affordable food to central-city residents
with nutrition, job creation, income production."

Contact Clyde Hughes at: chughes@theblade.com or 419-724-6095.

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