Huron ConAgra site study plays catch-up with economy

HURON When Huron officials commissioned a study on the future of the ConAgra site in May, they expec
May 24, 2010



When Huron officials commissioned a study on the future of the ConAgra site in May, they expected the report in September.

No one counted on the economy cratering just before it was due.

Now, four months after the projected completion date, Pizzuti Solutions plans to deliver the results of the feasibility study to Huron officials next week.

"The world changed as we were doing the project," said Shannon Hamons, Pizzuti's director of special projects. "We just had to reevaluate what is doable in the market and what could be the steps to initiate when the market rebounds."

City manager Andy White said he's seen some preliminary documents, mostly consisting of statistics on the market.

There should be more analysis and recommendations in the final report, White said, and representatives from Columbus-based Pizzuti will present their findings at an upcoming city council meeting.

The former ConAgra grain-handling facility sits on a 19.8-acre peninsula. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources owns the 10 southern acres and plans to build a boat launch and a parking lot on the land this year.

The rest of the land belongs to Huron. White said finding a developer for the site would have been difficult even if the economy hadn't taken a turn for the worse in the fall.

"It's an arduous task anyway you look at it," he said.

One developer that has expressed interest is Cleveland-based Fairmount Properties. The company signed a memorandum of understanding with the city in June to build a "destination resort" and a mixed-used development along the Huron River.

White said Huron is still interested, but the cooling real estate market is a problem for Fairmount.

"I still talk to some of their officials, but they're dealing with their own project demands now," he said.

Fairmount did not return a call for comment Wednesday.