Ready to Come Down

The face of the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. Steubenville plant is undergoing a major change as Strauss Industries of Wheeling continues to remove the aging and rusting structures that were home to a booming steel industry for more than 150 years.

The buildings still are being demolished, and the two blast furnaces that date back more than 100 years are scheduled for implosion in June.

According to Strauss Chief Operating Officer Ken Burns, the end result will be new businesses at the industrial site with jobs and the opportunity for economic development.

“I have had my eye on this property for probably the past 10 years. But I had to wait until we had the opportunity to purchase this property in 2011 after RG Steel filed bankruptcy,” Burns said Tuesday during a tour of the 119-acre site. “Some of these buildings date back to 1904. We will demolish and remove a number of structures and save buildings we can use in the future. We also plan to move our scrap operations from Weirton to this site, where it will be under a roof and will be a more equipment-oriented operation.”

Burns and Chief Financial Officer John McDonald met Tuesday with city officials and the city planning and zoning commission to outline their plans for the future.

“The city is all eyes and ears as far as the future development and the opportunity to sell you or your tenants water. We welcome you to the community,” said Steubenville Mayor and Acting City Manager Domenick Mucci.

“We have spent more than $5 million, including the $1 million Clean Ohio Assistance grant, to clean up any asbestos on the site as well as demolish and remove the scrap buildings. Add in the pre-work expenditures, and we are closer to $6 million,” said Burns. “We have a very open relationship with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. So far we have drilled 233 wells throughout the site to make sure we find anything and everything that needs to be cleaned up.”

At this point, Strauss has 40 local employees, including outside contractors. The firm expects to have close to 50 employees on site by the end of summer.

Burns is preparing for what he believes will be a business boom in the Midwest.

“The Panama Canal is preparing to re-open in 2014, and we believe that will mean the Los Angeles docks will be slowing down and the docks in New Orleans will be building up again. You will see a major increase in river traffic starting next year. We want to be prepared for that event and are looking for potential development of the property along the river,” he said.

“Additional jobs are expected as the property is redeveloped and leased. Property redevelopment is also expected to generate income and property tax benefits for the city as well,” Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi has told the planning commission members.