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The Journal Gazette

Friday, January 26, 2018 1:00 am

Monroeville prepping site to attract a buyer

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

Unused acreage in the Monroeville Industrial Park is being primed for the real estate market, said officials who are working on finding a user for the long-vacant property near Monroeville Road and Indiana 101.

The town of Monroeville, which owns the land next to the American Mitsuba manufacturing and logistics facility, last month was awarded a $14,400 economic development grant through Buckeye Power and Paulding-Putnam Electric Cooperative, officials said.

The money will allow the small east Allen County community to obtain an environmental survey and other studies to advance the site's marketability by being certified as shovel-ready, said Kent Castleman, board president of New Allen Alliance.

The nonprofit group promotes the interests of seven communities in east Allen County, including Monroeville, which as a population of about 1,300.

“Shovel-ready” is a term used when land has or can get infrastructure that will support quick-turnaround development. The state Office of Community and Rural Affairs has a program to ensure sites meet those characteristics.  

Castleman said the site will seek second-tier, or Silver, certification. But, depending on how the environmental studies turn out, the property might qualify for stricter Gold certification.

He said the land already meets some “Gold” qualifications, including being less than five miles from a state highway, having legal zoning for industrial use in place and being over 20 acres, he said.

If the environmental work uncovers no problems, the land would be well on its way to meeting another Gold-level requirement, a clean environmental record, he said.

The site contains 22 to 25 acres able to be developed and about that much in woods and wetlands for stormwater detention, Castleman said. The land is adjacent to the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern railroad tracks, which run just to its south.

If certification is obtained, the state would enter the land into its Site Selector Database and the land would be included in marketing materials of the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

Kristi Sturtz, rural community liaison for the Allen County commissioners and the New Allen Alliance, is coordinating the grant and certification processes.

The Allen County Redevelopment Commission and Greater Fort Wayne would be involved in marketing the site, said Elissa McGauley, redevelopment director.

Options could include a shell building built on spec, or without a tenant or buyer, as well as a relocating or expanding company that would build its own building. She said interest from a customer or supplier of American Mitsuba could not be ruled out.

The company makes motors for windshield wipers and power-steering assemblies among other components, according to its website. Officials of American Mitsuba's Pleasant Center, Michigan, headquarters could not be reached this week for comment. 

McGauley said it's unlikely the county redevelopment commission would buy the property for its land bank because the land already is government-owned.

Greater Fort Wayne would develop a marketing plan and materials and include the property when companies approach GFW about possible locations, said Dan Watson, GFW marketing director.

He said the group placed 28 expanding or relocating companies last year. Although he could not speculate on a timeline for any sale, “The market is good,” he said.

Castleman said initially it was thought that American Mitsuba, which expanded its original facility in the industrial park to include a logistics center several years ago, would want to expand on the land.

But the company has not expressed interest recently, he said, adding the acreage has essentially been off the tax rolls for about 18 years. 

The property now is being farmed by an agricultural program for young people, Castleman said. Redeveloping it came up when the alliance was laying out a plan in 2016 for coordinating economic growth and quality-of-life improvements in east Allen.

“When we sat down with all the communities and asked, 'What projects to do we need to go with?' this one was identified in Monroeville's Top 5 list,” Castleman said.

He added the site's highway access and the ability to draw employees from both Indiana and Ohio should prove attractive to potential buyers or tenants.

“I think people are generally supportive of the growth because this is in an existing industrial park and has been vacant so long,” he said. “I think people in Monroeville are excited.”

rsalter@jg.net