River Valley housing development remains on track

Published 10:14 am Wednesday, March 11, 2009

IRONTON — Despite a struggling economy and an unstable housing market currently at its weakest levels in decades, interest in the 23 lots that will comprise the now-demolished River Valley Hospital site remain strong.

Ironton Economic Development Director and Port Authority member Bill Dickens noted that results of a recent survey re-affirmed that interest hasn’t waned for the families and individuals who showed a liking to building on the five-acre site more than a year ago.

“Most of the families who signed up and replied to the survey are young, enterprising families who want to remain or relocate to Ironton,” Dickens said. He noted that the current interest list contains “around 16 or 17 families.”

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The property, now owned by Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, needs Ohio Environmental Protection Agency approval for the deed transfer to the Ironton Port Authority and Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization who, under a joint-operating agreement, will sell the lots to prospective homeowners.

Ohio EPA approval could come within the next six-months. Dickens added that the property would have to be rezoned to Single-Family Home Residential (R-1) from its current designation by the Ironton Planning Commission with final approval by Ironton City Council.

Rezoning will likely come in the fall.

When rezoned and approved for construction by the Ohio EPA, lots will be available for sale based on the order of the interest list started at the beginning of the project.

Dickens estimates the lots will sell in the $3-per-square-foot range and that it will be up to the new property owners to decide what builder they will use under the construction guidelines set by the IPA and CAO.

Those guidelines include building a certain size single-family house and having the home built within a year of purchasing the lot.

Dickens added that neither the IPA nor the CAO will be involved in individual builder selection and that those decisions will be solely up to the homeowner.

If the entire five-acre, 23-lot subdivision sold at the $3 per-square-foot estimate the amount of revenue the project could generate for the IPA and CAO combined would be more than $650,000.

Dickens said the revenue amount that comes from the sale of the lots doesn’t take into account the money that has been invested already on the project by the IPA and CAO.

One expense that is still pending includes rebuilding the alley that ran parallel to 8th and 9th street, though Dickens added a federal block grant might be used for that.

A block grant is a sum of money granted by the federal government to a regional government or agency with specific provisions as to the way the money is to be spent.

Closed in 2001 after serving Lawrence County for 63 years, River Valley Hospital was purchased by OLBH with the intent to reopen the facility, a decision that was later changed.

The hospital eventually decided to give it back to the city to be developed into housing.

Demolition, funded by $750,000 in Clean Ohio Funds, started last year and the site was finally cleared of all debris, re-graded and backfilled on Feb. 5.

When completed the subdivision would be the first major housing development within the city of Ironton since the Indian Hills subdivision was built in the 1970s.