Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

July 17, 2013

Firestone building getting closer look

City targeting downtown structure for future reuse.

By Scott Smith Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — When engineers looked through the former Firestone building earlier this year, they found six inches of water in the basement and they had to use flashlights to search through the massive concrete structure.

Their task was to find “recognized environmental conditions” either in or under the building, which the city of Kokomo has targeted for future reuse.

Whether reuse will be feasible from a cost standpoint could be further clarified in about a month, when the Kokomo Redevelopment Commission receives soil and groundwater testing results from a more recent environmental survey.

The building itself has been around since the 1920s, and there have been businesses at the site, 219 N. Union St., since at least 1885.

Some of the past uses create at least the suspicion that environmental remediation will be needed.

According to a May report issued by Soil and Materials Engineers Inc., Cincinnati, there’s a potential for environmental issues associated with the building’s past life as an automotive center/gas station, a machine shop and a printer’s shop.

At least three underground storage tanks, probably used for gasoline, were found on old maps. But engineers said they were hampered during their Phase 1 environmental study by a lack of light and water in the basement.

Last week, however, they were back at the property to take physical samples in areas where environmental issues are suspected.

The RDC used federal brownfields grant funding to pay for the studies, which are a prerequisite for the city applying for federal cleanup funds. Last year, Kokomo, Greentown, Russiaville and Howard County learned they’d be sharing a $600,000 federal brownfields grant, to be used to pay for Phase 1 and Phase 2 environmental studies at various brownfield properties.

The funding could help address some of the most visible contaminated sites in the area, which has at least 110 brownfield areas with known environmental contamination, according to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

City officials listed the Button Motors site, the OmniSource scrap yard, the former Southside Lumber yard next to Wildcat Creek, the Northern Indiana Supply Co. property on South Main Street and property formerly owned by Delphi Corp. off Home Avenue as potential redevelopment sites on the brownfields grant application.

STAR Financial donated the Firestone building to the city’s redevelopment commission in early June after the building spent years empty and for sale.

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com