MOUNT VERNON — With a successful first year under its belt, the Knox County Land Bank is turning its attention to the largest piece of property in its inventory: the Shellmar site.
The city transferred the 28-acre parcel to the land bank in 2018. Thus far, no company has shown interest in developing the entire parcel.
The land bank is looking to jump-start growth by acting as developer. The plan is to divide the acreage into nine two- to three-acre lots that would accommodate warehouses and small manufacturing areas. If a specific company is interested, it could combine lots for a larger area.
“With the current demand, we could fill it up tomorrow,” Jeff Gottke, president of the land bank, said last week.
That demand is local, too.
“Something between 5,000 and 15,000 square feet I get inquiries about regularly,” he said. “The inventory of that size of building just doesn't exist locally.
“Our goal is to attract various sizes of buildings to help develop business,” he continued. “We want to provide a way to create a variety of sizes and uses.”
If companies outgrow their facility on the Shellmar site, they could move to the Siemens campus or the industrial park.
The idea is to build the first structure on the southern end of the property, sell or lease to an end user, and then move north with construction of a second building. Gottke said the first building would utilize the existing concrete pad and would be close to utilities.
To fund the project, the land bank will borrow money through bonds and other long-term “patient capital” funds. Land banks are allowed to take on debt in pursuit of economic activities under the community improvement section of the Ohio Revised Code.
“I don't think the land bank has the ability, financially or manpower, to develop the whole site,” said Gottke. “But one or two or three buildings we could do to jump-start development.”
Gottke is working on developing a site plan that includes extending Madison Street west into the Shellmar site and exiting on Tilden Avenue.
Another potential route involves turning the levee into a roadway that connects West High Street to Tilden Avenue, and idea that originated with former Mount Vernon Safety-service Director Joel Daniels.
“It originally came out of a conversation about how to alleviate truck traffic through town and improve Dike Road,” said City Engineer Brian Ball, who is also a land bank board member. “It spun out of our 2018 downtown planning. We would remove the dike and rebuild [a road] to current standards.”
Ball said that funding would come from a combination of public entities, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Transportation, and FEMA.
Gottke said that if the land bank decides to proceed, the time frame for completing construction of the first building would be around 18 months.
“Once we get the site plans done, I'll reach out to local companies,” he said. “It may be that the land bank won't have to be the developer.”
Ideally, Plan A is that individual companies will take the lead and build their own buildings. Plan B is that after the land bank develops the site plan, another developer comes in and proceeds from there. The land bank serving as developer is actually Plan C.
If it comes down to Plan C, land bank board members are supportive.
“We know [the Shellmar site] has been sitting there for awhile, so it'd be nice to kick-start it,” said County Commissioner Bill Pursel.