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MORPC Wins Federal Grant To Clean Up Westland Mall Site

The Westland Mall has sat vacant for several years, but one developer purchased all the land and buildings.
Debbie Holmes
The Westland Mall has sat vacant for several years, but one developer purchased all the land and buildings.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission has received a federal grant money to clean up the former location of Westland Mall.

After decades of neglect, the remaining land of Westland Mall were finally purchased last year by LGR Realty in Columbus, which planned to build a mixed-use development in its place.

But the site is considered a brownfield, a piece of land that can’t be built on until it’s cleared of potentially hazardous pollutants, some of which is known as "universal waste."

“They’re just bombed out. There’s garbage in the building, debris,” says Thea Ewing, director of Transportation & Infrastructure Development at MORPC. “But it can be worse.”

Ewing says fueling tanks or former dry cleaners are particular causes for concern, as contaminants can linger on the property.

In their application for the nearly $600,000 grant, MORPC proposed cleaning up Westland Mall, a former Value City warehouse on the North Side, and the area around Rickenbacker Airport’s industrial facility, where the Air Force used to keep a munition bunker.

“These are some of the worst examples in Central Ohio right now,” Ewing says.

But Ewing says the full list is long.

“It’s so very common," she says. "Any type of former retail that’s large-scale like that could be potentially. Sometimes they’re referred to as grayfields, where it’s not exactly too dirty, but it does have that universal waste component."

Ewing is quick to add that many beloved places around the region were once brownfields that were since redeveloped.

“There are so many success stories in Central Ohio," Ewing says. "Grandview Yard, the Big Bear facility clean-up along Olentangy River Road, the Scioto Audobon Park was an old Lazarus warehouse."

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.