GIRARD, Ohio (WKBN) – A big moment for the city of Girard. Work started this week to clean the land contaminated by the old Ohio Leatherworks business. It’s the start of what could be a new life for the property, which has been dormant for more than 50 years.

For the first time in decades, work is going on at the old Ohio Leatherworks site. Now, instead of processing leather, crews are cleaning up the soil contaminated by the former business.

“There were man-made lagoons into the soil, so all of the byproduct of the operation went into, to soil. So yes, it’s an extensive cleanup,” said Girard Mayor Jim Melfi.

In its heyday, the company on N. State Street was one of the city’s largest employers. It was open for 70 years.

“It was the gateway to the American dream. Many ethnic people from Europe worked at this site. This was to start their American dream. They came here, they worked hard,” Melfi said.

It has now been closed for more than half a century. The building was destroyed by a large fire in 1995.

Melfi says it has been an eyesore for a long time but getting to this point took years, filled with litigation, until the city finally gained ownership of the property in 2014.

“A lot of effort over the decades went in to having the city first to acquire the property and then to apply for the grants to clean the property up,” Melfi said.

A $500,000 federal grant will cover a majority of the $600,000 cleanup, with the city covering the cost for the rest.

“Getting that cleaned up and back into productive use could be huge, especially for the city of Girard to attract other employers and have a viable site,” said Nicholas Coggins, assistant director of the Trumbull County Planning Commission.

The cleanup is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

A bit of Girard history, although physically gone, is now making way for endless possibilities in the future.

“Lots of ideas which city council will look at over the next several years. Business development, recreation uses — we’re pretty excited about it,” Melfi said.