County Looks Forward to Site Redevelopment for Future Industry

Image source: News Tribune
The day explosive charges went off and the steel mill at Hennepin toppled was the day the largest steel mill building also fell off of the Putnam County property tax rolls.

Now a three-story-high pile of bent metal detached from a foundation, the debris from the old mill building that housed up to 1,000 workers during boom times has become personal property rather than a taxable structure.

People who keep an eye on the tax base, such as Putnam County schools superintendent Carl Carlson, say they planned ahead for loss of property taxes from the building. And when owners started stripping the site, they contributed to the structure’s devaluation.

“There’s other growth in that area that has offset it,” he said.

The overall property assessment in Putnam County has gone up, not down, in the past four years.

Cheryl Roelfsema, vice president for business services and finance at Illinois Valley Community College, said other developments such as the ethanol plant boosted the overall equalized assessed valuation in Putnam County.

Putnam County Supervisor of Assessments Tamara Mehalic said Putnam County’s equalized assessed valuation in 2014 was $181.3 million for 2014, $182.2 million for 2015, $209.1 million for 2016 and, tentatively, $209,730,584 for 2017.

The main entrance to the former steel mill building has fallen on its side. Workers will continue to demolish the plant.

The county will publish its assessments this Wednesday for 2017, and then the public has 30 days to file an appeal with the board of review.

The entire steel mill site was up for sale nine years ago for $25 million and was assessed at $21 million. After years of light use or no use, and after the buildings were stripped of equipment, assessment on the largest steel mill building was reduced last summer to $1.4 million and then this summer to $743,375.

Property taxes on the big building halted the day of the “implosion” in June. Mehalic divided the assessment that was in effect for this year by 365 days to arrive at a sum to eventually be billed on next year’s taxes.

When the building comes off of next year’s assessment list, the whole steel mill site, 873 acres and 21 separate parcels and a few smaller buildings, still will be on the tax rolls.

Industry and assessment should rise again

If all goes according to plans, industrial development will rise again on the land, which has been called a “mega site” for industry.

Industrial-site redeveloper William Marino has been assuring civic leaders such as Hennepin mayor Kevin Coleman and superintendent Carlson that he will market parcels on the 873-acre site and some of the smaller remaining buildings for industry.

“We have lots of plans for it — nothing I can disclose,” Marino said.

Carlson said once the wreckage from the building is removed and the slab under the steel factory building is restored, that site should become attractive to developers.

Industrial developers are showing interest in the many parcels of land, and especially the rail and river access, said Marino, of Chicago-based Hennepin Industrial Development LLC.

A barge awaits more steel salvaged from the demolition of the former J&L and LTV Steel building on a dock that’s part of the more than 800-acre industrial site that is being redeveloped at Hennepin. Parties who’ve expressed interest in the site almost all have shown interest in access to the Illinois River, said William Marino, of Chicago-based Hennepin Industrial Development LLC.

“Everybody wants the dock,” Marino said.

The buildings where rolled steel was produced since the 1960s had become obsolete, but infrastructure for the site is not, Marino said. That includes a power substation, rail access, smaller buildings, drainage structures, water line and gas lines.

For income during the demolition phase, crops have been planted on some of the land, all of which still is zoned industrial. Also, Hennepin Industrial Development is shipping out scrap metal by barge from the dock where rolled steel had been loaded from the late 1960s into the 2000s.

If anyone’s worried that Marino won’t actually market the land and infrastructure as a “mega site” for industrial development, Coleman said he doubts that Marino could recoup his costs if he didn’t market it and sell it.

He points to Marino’s demolition and redevelopment of the former 350,000-square-foot Essex Wire plant on North Main Street in Rockford as an example of Marino’s efforts.

Source: News Tribune