City wants to use 14-acre former Middletown Paperboard site for future development

The former Middletown Paperboard property on Verity Parkway was destroyed by fire more than two years ago. The city is applying for $2.8 million in grants to remediate and redevelopment the 14-acre property. RICK McCRABB/STAFF

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The former Middletown Paperboard property on Verity Parkway was destroyed by fire more than two years ago. The city is applying for $2.8 million in grants to remediate and redevelopment the 14-acre property. RICK McCRABB/STAFF

Redevelopment is a high priority project for Middletown leaders

The city of Middletown is hoping to pay for the demolition and remediation of the former Middletown Paperboard site through two grants.

During Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, City Manager Jim Palenick called the redevelopment of the 14-acre Paperboard site on Verity Parkway one of the city’s “highest priority projects” because of its connection to the Ohio 4 corridor.

The city is requesting $1.878 million in grant funding through the Ohio Brownfield Remediation Program that is designed to provide grants for remediation of brownfield sites across Ohio to prepare them for future economic development. The Ohio Brownfield Remediation Program has $350 million in grants to award throughout the state.

If Middletown receives the grant, it would require a 25% match that the city has met through prior expenditures for work at the site, according to Palenick.

The grant could be “a powerful tool” in offsetting technical, financial and timing challenges the city faces in redeveloping a site like this, according to the staff report.

The city has received a letter of recommendation from Butler County to receive the $1 million allocation that the county received from the program. That allocation requires no financial match by the city, Palenick said.

Total cleanup costs of the project are approximately $2.878 million, Palenick said.

The deadline for the grant application was Jan. 31 and Palenick said the city met the deadline. City Council unanimously supported the emergency legislation during Tuesday’s meeting and that legislation was forwarded, the city manager said.

Council member Tal Moon suggested seeking letters of support from State Sen. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp. and State Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp.

Palenick said he felt “pretty good” about the city receiving the grant from the Brownfield program because the project will “score well” because the former Paperboard is an “environmental eyesore.”

The city, he said, is “beating the bushes” seeking additional funding for the project, part of the redevelopment of the Ohio 4 corridor.

Mayor Nicole Condrey inquired about the $4,000 fee the city is seeking for consultant, Burgess & Niple, to assist with the application process. Palenick said the city needed to hire additional professional staff, environment consultants, due to the remediation and demolition of the project.

On Jan. 1, 2020, the former paperboard was destroyed in a fire that was started when a homeless man living inside the building built a fire to stay warm. He left to get more wood for the fire, but upon his return, the fire had spread to his bedding, he later told police. The man fled the scene because he had several arrest warrants.

The next day, police arrested Joshua Lamb, 38, on charges of arson, a fourth-degree felony, and aggravated arson, a second-degree felony, for starting the fire. He was sentenced to five years of community control after pleading guilty to arson. The aggravated arson charge was dismissed.

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This is the way the former Middletown Paperboard looked in December 2020, nearly one year after the complex was destroyed by fire. The city hopes to use grants to redevelopment the property. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

This is the way the former Middletown Paperboard looked in December 2020, nearly one year after the complex was destroyed by fire. The city hopes to use grants to redevelopment the property. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Combined ShapeCaption
This is the way the former Middletown Paperboard looked in December 2020, nearly one year after the complex was destroyed by fire. The city hopes to use grants to redevelopment the property. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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