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Published: Saturday, 8/11/2001

Cleanup cost question mark in demolition

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Tearing down a third of the aging Jeep Parkway factory will cost roughly $3 million, but judging how much more it could take to clean up any possible asbestos, soil contaminants, and other environmental concerns is anyone's guess, real estate and demolition experts said yesterday.

DaimlerChrysler AG's U.S. side confirmed Thursday that nine of Jeep Parkway's 54 buildings will be razed starting this fall, but the automaker has not determined how much the roughly year-long project will cost. The buildings along Jeep Parkway, built between approximately 1915 and 1928, were used to do final assembly of the Jeep Cherokee, which ended production in June after 18 years.

Typically a factory costs $2 a square foot to demolish, but environmental cleanup costs depend on what problems are found and what the site will be used for next, said David Long, a sales associate with Toledo's Coldwell Banker Commercial Zyndorf/Serchuk, Inc.

“Who knows what's in the ground,” Mr. Long said.

The Chrysler unit and other former Big 3 automakers have strict standards when it comes to factory rehabilitation, said Mike Taylor, executive director of the National Association of Demolition Contractors in Doylestown, Pa.

“Their public relations demands that it comes in cleaner than clean,” Mr. Taylor said.

The Chrysler unit has no plans for the site, a spokesman said, although Jeep Wranglers will continue to be built and painted in the rest of Jeep Parkway and finished at the Stickney Avenue factory. The Cherokee's replacement, the Jeep Liberty, is being built at the $750 million Toledo North Assembly Plant adjacent to the Stickney Avenue factory.

Mr. Long and others said the Jeep Parkway site's easy access to interstates, availability of utilities, and other assets make it a good candidate for continued industrial use. The demolition will open about 35 to 50 acres of highly attractive Toledo real estate, said John Green, a principal with CB Richard Ellis, Reichle Klein, a commercial real estate firm in Springfield Township.

“It would be an excellent site for another manufacturer or warehouse,” Mr. Green said. “Any manufacturer that wants high visibility with the expressway exposure, it would just be the perfect site for them.”

United Auto Workers Local 12, which represents Toledo Jeep Assembly's hourly workers, has a manufacturer in mind. The union would like the Chrysler unit to build a final-assembly shop so a vehicle could be made completely at Jeep Parkway as the Cherokee was, said Bruce Baumhower, Local 12's president.

For now, though, the union wants to make sure Jeep Parkway's stamping plant - which is not scheduled for demolition - continues to operate, Mr. Baumhower said. The plant makes replacement body pieces for the Cherokee and some Wrangler stampings, and the union wants more Wrangler parts to add 100 to 150 jobs, he said.

“Right now our short-term concern is to get dies into the stamping plant,” Mr. Baumhower said.



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