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Developers Promise To Repurpose A Century-Old Steel Plant, Columbus Castings

Esther Honig
Columbus Castings closed earlier this summer and filed for bankruptcy. Now the plant's new owners say they will not operate the foundry.

After the century old steel plant closed this summer many had hoped it might reopen under new ownership. Now the plant has been purchased and the new owners say that they will not restart the foundry, but they do promises to clean-up and develop the site.

The Columbus Castings facility is a mammoth structure of brick and steel that sits on the city's South Side. On a typical workday the plant's parking lot overflowed with hundreds of car. Today it sits empty.

On the east entrance to 110-year-old building, it reads "through these gates walk the finest steel foundrymen in the world,” but that facility has been sold to a new owner who does not plan on reopening the steel manufacturer. The 800 men and women who once worked here are not be coming back.

Just up the street from Columbus Castings, Rick Coleman says he's lived near the plant all his life. He says his dad worked there back in the 1950s when it was called Buckeye Steel.

“But he had breathing problems all his life and I think that place was a big part of it,” says Coleman.

Coleman says he was shocked when the company declared bankruptcy earlier this spring. The plant had always employed a lot people in his neighborhood, but he says he thinks it also polluted the area didn't follow environmental regulations. He thinks the new owners have their work cut out for them if they ever want to clean up the plant.

“I hope that...for like my kids and grandkids, that sort of thing, I hope something goes in there that produces a little cleaner air you know,” Coleman said.

Those new owners are the Reich Brothers, a development company that bought the company at a bankruptcy auction for $30 million.

Co-CEO Jonathan Reich says it’s too soon to say exactly what will become of the Columbus Castings site. The plan is to clean and redevelop it - possibly for use by new industry, retail or both. Reich says whatever the result, the new site will be more environmentally friendly.

“As it’s been pointed out to us, a number of neighbors who have been very disturbed over the years by the environmental impact,” says Reich.

Reich says he feels for the loss of jobs in the area, that’s why he plans to hire some of the former foundry workers during the cleanup process. He also promises a job fair to connect laid-off workers with new companies.

Credit Esther Honig / WOSU
Dan's Drive Thru has been around since the 50s. Before Columbus Castings closed workers would stop by each day for breakfast and lunch.

A few blocks east of the old-foundry is Dan's Drive Thru. The tiny dinner has been her since the 1950s. Server Jessica Heart says they have lost some business since Columbus Castings closed.

“Yeah I mean like it’s sad to see your regulars go, but it’s just something you deal with,” Heart said.

Heart says the office workers at Columbus Castings would put in a huge breakfast order every morning, and their lunch rush just isn’t what it used to be. But she says the other businesses in area are probably feeling the same.

“It’s got to be effecting everybody else, not just us,” she said.

Heart says whatever become of the old Columbus Castings site, she hopes it’s something useful that brings business back.