The Ohio Leatherworks in Girard, which shut down over 50 years ago, was a dirty place and the contamination left behind is still there. The city is looking to reclaim this land — to clean it up and transform it into something useful.
Among the woods behind the older, well-kept homes of Gordon Street are the ruins of what used to be the Ohio Leatherworks Company — a wall, an underground valve, bricks from what was a path or street.
“It employed hundreds of people, primarily first-generation Americans, immigrants,” said Girard Mayor Jim Melfi.
Melfi has pictures from inside of the Ohio Leatherworks — the men working on hides, many of which he said became Florsheim Shoes.
It closed in 1969. The city obtained the land in 2015 and had it tested.
“Considering what the previous use was, it’s not hard to figure out that there’s going to be some contamination at that site,” Melfi said.
To start the clean-up, Girard City Council has approved applying for a $500,000 EPA grant, which requires a $100,000 match by the city.
Melfi said the total cost of the clean-up is between $4 million and $6 million — money he hopes to raise through future grants.
He had drawings of what the land would look like once it’s cleaned. They show a picnic area next to a walking and bike path. It would border the Mahoning River so there could be a bridge leading to the other side, along with benches for sitting.
There would also be opportunities for new business — possibly an assisted living center or a medical facility.
“The future is bright for a bike trail, a walking trail along the Mahoning River,” Melfi said. “Possibly, the right business to make it all fit. So the future will be very nice once it’s clean.”
The mayor said if everything goes perfectly, the old Ohio Leatherworks property could be cleaned up and redeveloped in five years.