MANSFIELD — The Westinghouse industrial site’s history in Mansfield spoke to the U.S. EPA in terms of helping to re-develop its future.

Not in so many words. Demolished buildings and concrete jungles can’t speak.

But it’s the story of one of the city’s former largest employers that closed up shop more than three decades ago, leaving behind buildings and grounds that have sat decaying since 1990.

And it’s the story of a community that began an effort more than three years ago to finally demolish the buildings that were left standing and to clean up the adjoining 13-acre “concrete jungle” on the city’s east side.

It’s that storied history and troubled past — and the new local effort to fix it — that helped to attract the attention of the U.S. EPA, which will help conduct a market analysis to find viable plans for a mixed-use development project on the site that included the former “A” building at 200 E. Fifth St.

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According to the U.S. EPA website, the U.S. EPA Brownfields and Land Reutilization Technical Assistance program is “reusing cleaned up sites (that) protects public health and the environment by preventing sprawl, preserving green space and reinvigorating communities.”

Members of the Richland County Land Bank board, which acquired the property and has led the demolition/cleanup effort, were informed Wednesday of the federal agency’s plans to help.

The work will be done at no cost to the Land Bank, officials said, even as cleanup work continues on the site.

“You do not apply for this assistance,” Land Bank manager Amy Hamrick said. “They selected the site.”

Land Bank Board Vice Chairman Jeff Parton said it’s been an ongoing effort to demonstrate the need once the EPA became interested.

“We met with them last year. They came down and we all walked the site and toured it. And then they committed to helping us,” Parton said.

Richland County Treasurer Bart Hamilton, the Land Bank board chair, said the federal officials liked the site “from day one.”

“They like the idea that you’re taking that type of a brownfield and you’re going to do something with it. It’s in town. You got a hundred years of manufacturing that’s been there and we’re gonna repurpose that.

“And Ohio’s full of places like that,” Hamilton said.

Richland County Commissioner Tony Vero, a Land Bank board member, credited stories published by Richland Source for attracting attention to the multi-million dollar demolition project, which included a visit from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to announce a $3 million state grant to help pay for it.

“Far be it from us to compliment the Richland Source,” he said with a laugh. “But their series of articles, I’m sure, were helpful to tell the story of what that site was to the community. I mean, it was all part of the entire (story) … the governor came down. So it’s got some public notoriety to it.

“So I just think the story of the site is intriguing to the EPA,” Vero said.

He said agency officials will look at the entire market.

“They’re going to review all the community’s data, demographics, income, existing plans such as the Mansfield Rising Plan, the (countywide) housing study.

“We bombarded them. We love studies here in Richland County. As I tell (Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development Chief Operating Officer) Jodie Perry, we can never have enough plans and studies.

“They will review all of those. And that will be part of the market analysis to say ultimately, at the end of the day, what do we believe that site could become,” Vero said.

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Work will begin soon and the first phase of the market analysis will be done by March, according to Hamrick.

The work will include public input at meetings, according to Hamrick, who will join Vero, Hamilton, Parton and board member Andy McGinty on a steering committee to work with the EPA.

“They’ve talked about helping us find developers. They want to to see this through to the end,” Hamrick said.

Vero said, “The ultimate goal is to develop the site for whatever the best use can be. My instincts are telling me the best use could be a mixed use.”

Board members said uses could include residential, commercial, retail, restaurants and green spaces.

“A variety of uses,” Vero said.

Hamrick said, “That’s what this market analysis is going to tell us. What does this community need? What can it support? What should be there?”

Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership. Learn more about Newsroom Partnerships.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when...