The all-but-abandoned former Casad Depot in New Haven – where munitions and other supplies, including toxic materials, were stored during and after World-War II – may finally have another life.
During Thursday’s meeting of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board, New Haven Mayor Terry McDonald asked for $1 million to help repurpose the 268-acre site into an industrial park.
McDonald told the board he has been working with the federal General Services Administration, which has control of the site, about taking possession of it. He said the person responsible for its disposition is retiring next year and hopes to be rid of the area by September.
"It’s been completely abandoned for the last six years," McDonald said. Paint is peeling on buildings and the overgrown grounds "look like a wild forest," he said.
But for eastern Allen County, the site represents untapped potential, McDonald contended.
"One of the things we found that hinders growth in east Allen County is lack of shovel-ready industrial space," he said.
The depot is a primed for that kind of development, McDonald said, because it is flat, close to highways, including Interstate 469 and U.S. 24 and U.S. 30, and has potential for rail transport. He acknowledged, however, that existing tracks probably could not be salvaged.
The site ranks among the top acreage statewide for potential rail access, which is growing in demand, he said.
McDonald said the toxic materials that had been left at the site have been cleaned up, with the exception of topsoil that contains arsenic. That, he said, is a not-uncommon component of soil, and tests show the chemical has not contaminated the water table.
Arsenic can be remediated either by paving over it or removing the soil and covering it on a small part of the property, McDonald said.
He added that the mercury and aluminum oxide once stored on the site, which opened in 1943, are long gone.
The depot’s buildings, the mayor said, would likely not be reused because of low ceilings and too many interior pillars making it inefficient for modern industrial equipment. "The intent would be to wipe it off and start clean," he said.
McDonald said a "tremendous amount of industrial interest" has recently been shown in the east Allen area.
He cited $100 million in investment in the Woodburn BF Goodrich plant and the recent sale of an Allen County Redevelopment property on South Ryan Road to Lippert Components Inc., a marine and recreational vehicle furniture company.
He said three other parties showed interest in the South Ryan Road site and added the county redevelopment authority may soon add acreage on another tract in that general area.
"This ($1 million investment) would be taking a piece of property, 260-plus acres, that’s been off the tax rolls since the 1930s and put it back into productive use," he said.