We think the Tribune got it right this morning when they said the important thing about addressing the former GE buildings is that the community has come together to do something about it. We have reprinted this mornings editorial below.
If no improvements are made to the vacant General Electric properties on West Market Street and North Park Avenue in Warren, one very good thing would have resulted from the attempt to get the corporate giant to better clean up after itself.
Folks in Niles and Austintown might want to closely watch how it plays out.
Warren is plagued with many unkempt, vacant commercial lots. In many ways, the former GE plants are just two more pockmarks. In fact, the West Market plant has been closed for years and nary a word was said about it.
But when GE shuttered its North Park plant in January, then erected a prison-like fence around it, people got angry.
This is along the Garden District. This impacts a 22-block area that has been the focal point of a pretty amazing grassroots revitalization effort. This is next to a neighborhood that is in the midst of a transformation, spearheaded by prominent community leaders, philanthropists and volunteers that have already mounted considerable progress. This General Electric property could hurt – or help – a repopulation effort that has the potential to breathe new life into the central city and beyond.
And so about a dozen of those who have been part of the sweat and toil have recently written to GE executives, including Chairman and CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt, to do something better with the properties their company abandoned on North Park and West Market. Here’s some of what they have penned:
l ”The West Market Street lot … looks so much like the exercise yard at Attica,” because of the seven-foot-tall chain link fence around it.
l ”The barren, bleak and intimidating former Ohio Lamp site on West Market is already a significant black eye for the city and a similar result on North Park would be a devastating blow to our central city revitalization efforts.”
l ”Every time I drive past your former facility on West Market Street, I want to put an ice pick through my eye.” The West Market plant was demolished. The North Park plant will soon be razed and there is fear the vacant land left will receive the same treatment.
GE responded by recently removing the three rows of barbed wire atop the fence on the West Market Street property. Company executives said the sites are for sale and so they want to keep them shovel-ready. But there is a strong desire for more beautification.
The letter writers make a couple excellent points.
Warren Expressed blog and Gregg’s Gardens co-founder Dennis Blank wrote, ”One can’t help wondering, given the glut of vacant industrial property available in Warren, if anyone has assessed the odds of selling either parcel for a meaningful amount of money in our lifetimes.”
Josh Nativio wrote, ”I’ll dare to say that something more needs to be done because it is the right thing to do. Give us the General Electric People’s Park. Give us the Ohio Lamp Community Gardens. Give us something more than just decimated, post-industrial land because it is the proper thing to do.”
And Blank adds, ”… together we will create far greater public relations value for General Electric than the lots could ever return in a real estate deal.”
GE public relations in the Mahoning Valley could sure use a jolt after rendering hundreds unemployed by closing plants in Warren, Niles and Austintown. Valley residents felt further insulted when President Obama appointed Immelt to head the nation’s job creation commission. Immelt embraced Obama Administration policies that bolstered GE’s bottom line but put thousands of the company’s workers in Warren, Niles and Austintown out of jobs.
Immelt backed Obama’s plan for global warming fees and other aspects of the administration’s environmental push that led to switching from incandescent light bulbs manufactured in the Mahoning Valley to compact florescent light bulbs produced overseas. In exchange, GE received government contracts for windmills and solar panels.
Immelt also supported Obamacare. GE is profiting from its line of medical equipment with sales bolstered by the new health care legislation.
But there is an opportunity for GE to leave a great legacy in Warren. The company should embrace the grassroots effort that has reached out to the corporate giant.