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Owners aim to revive former arms depot near Camp Perry

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PORT CLINTON - Since its creation in the early 20th century, it has housed an Army armaments depot and a giant Sears tire warehouse.

But now, new owners are looking to revive the sagging fortunes of the 470-acre Erie Industrial Park, formerly the Erie Ordnance Depot.

Business owner Dave Fahrbach, veteran commercial property manager Jim McKinney, and William Vaughan Co. accountants teamed up to buy the park late last month for $3.7 million.

Their plan was to create a vibrant condominium-style office/industrial park on the property next to Camp Perry along State Route 2 in Erie Township.

They face an uphill effort. The park has suffered from years of neglect by absentee owners, buyers said.

The vacancy rate in existing buildings is 50 percent, the roads - 20 miles of them - require resurfacing, an unusual water plant and sewage system need upgrading, and most of the land remains undeveloped.

"Over the past few years, with absentee ownership, the park has lost many businesses and the physical plant has become tired and old," said Mr. Fahrbach.

The owners expect to invest more than $1 million, which they hope to generate from the sale of warehouse space.

The Ottawa County Improvement Corp., a local economic development agency, is working with the new owners on marketing and economic incentives. "There is a potential for huge growth out there in green space and unoccupied buildings," said Jamie Beier Grant, director.

Boosters said Erie Industrial Park is well situated along a major transportation route that is 12 miles from the Ohio Turnpike and less than 30 miles from I-75.

Plus, it has a solid core of tenants including bottle-maker Silgan Plastics, North Coast Polymers, the U.S. Coast Guard, and ceramics distributor C.C.S. & D. Most tenants have expressed interest in becoming owners.

Erie Development Park has 66 buildings, some dating to 1919. A number will require major renovations or demolition, Mr. McKinney said.

To increase the properties' marketability, they will be sold below the cost of new construction, according to owners.

Before beginning sales of vacant land, the owners plan to conduct a study to identify the "highest and best use" of the property.

Before buying the property, Mr. McKinney managed it for the prior owner, Kuehne & Nagel, a shipping firm based in Germany.

The park took a major hit in 2003 when that firm lost a contract to provide warehousing and distribution services for Sears tire stores.

Although optimistic, current owners acknowledge that much work remains. Tasks include closure of 1930s-era water and sewage treatment systems. The park plans to switch to the municipal system.

Contact Gary T. Pakulski:

gpakulski@theblade.com

419-724-6082.

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