By Kevin Kelley
City officials are campaigning feverishly to obtain public funding for asbestos removal and other environmental remediation work at a Brookpark Road building owned by the NASA Glenn Research Center.
The environmental work is needed, they say, before a proposed redevelopment of the site can begin. Located in Fairview Park, the building has been a key source of income tax revenue for the city.
Building 500, which once housed NASA employees but now is home to contractors, is owned by the federal goovernment and administered by the space agency. The General Services Administration is handling disposal of the property.
The city wants the GSA to turn over the property to the city, which would then transfer it to a developer it has been working with. But the GSA is looking to sell the land for $2.5 million, said Jim Kennedy, Fairview Park’s director of development.
Kennedy said no one will pay $2.5 million given that, according to the GSA, up to $7 million for environmental remediation work and the demolition of a smaller building will be required to fully develop the site.
An additional $8 million in renovation and improvement work would be needed at Building 500 to make it attractive to a tenant, Kennedy added. No company will sign a long-term lease for the building unless significant renovations are made, he said. And significant renovations will require asbestos removal, Kennedy said.
A previous Glenn director, Woodrow Whitlow, told city leaders that NASA had set aside money in its budget for the remediation and demolition work on the site, Mayor Eileen Patton said. But, according to a NASA spokeswoman, after the agency decided it didn’t need the land and handed its future over to the GSA, the decision was made to dispose of the property “as is.”
“This has been a very long, arduous process,” Kennedy said of the work to keep the buildings occupied and continue the flow of municipal income tax revenue from them.
Kennedy and Patton said they believe the federal government has an obligation to keep the building functioning and economically vital. “They created the condition,” Kennedy said.
Patton said the future of the site affects not only the economy of her city, but thatof Greater Cleveland.
The mayor said she hopes to obtain support at all levels of government on keeping the property economically vital.
Earlier this month, Patton and Kennedy met with the staffs of Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman about obtaining money for remediation and redevelopment of the site. The city is also in contact with the office of Gov. John Kasich regarding funding.
“We need to seek any type of funding that is out there,” Patton said.
The city has received some good news. Cuyahoga County has made a commitment of an unspecified amount of money to pay for remediation at the site, Kennedy and county Councilman Dave Greenspan said.