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Oxford building remodeling to likely take 10-12 months

Friday, August 26, 2011

By the time the folks from Phoenix Closures get done renovating and retrofitting the old blue Oxford Automotive building on Manhattan Road in Greencastle, local people may not believe their eyes.

"I've been told we won't recognize the building when they're done with it," Bill Dory, Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center director, told the Greencastle Redevelopment Commission Wednesday night.

"And," Dory added, "it won't be blue."

The new owners even plan to expand the existing facility.

Earlier this week Phoenix Closures, the Naperville, Ill.-based company that manufacturers caps and lids (aka closures) for the food and pharmaceutical industries, announced the purchase of the 225,000-square-foot facility.

The building at 370 N. Manhattan Rd. has been vacant for six years since Oxford closed its doors and idled 330 workers.

The facility originally came to life as home to Greencastle Manufacturing Co. in 1971, and later became Lobdell-Emery Corp. before being purchased by Oxford.

Dory said Phoenix Closures plans on needing 10-12 months for the renovation before beginning production in late 2012.

"Their facilities people have already been on site," Dory said Wednesday evening, "and we can expect that to continue."

"So it could be this time next year," commission member Gwen Morris suggested.

"Maybe even a little earlier," Dory said optimistically.

A family-owned business for more than 100 years (beginning in 1890), Phoenix Closures will operate the Greencastle facility as a food-grade packaging manufacturing plant.

The firm has a similar plant in the South, Dory said, where it provides closures for the peanut butter industry.

"It should be a nice addition, we're glad to have them," he added.

That notion was certainly seconded by Redevelopment Commission members.

"It's just wonderful news," Mayor Sue Murray agreed, noting the company will offer above-average wages and benefits as well as potential for expansion.

All that while reusing a building that earlier this month was designated a "dino-saur" by the City Council utilizing new state legislation.

"So many things (initially) were not in our favor," the mayor continued, pointing to the size, shape and condition of the Oxford building. "But now it will be renovated and repurposed, which is great news all around."

She and others verbally applauded Dory for his tireless efforts working on the marketing and sale of the 40-year-old building.

"Seriously," he humbly responded, "it was a team effort."

City officials weren't buying that act.

"Yeah," City Attorney Laurie Hardwick countered, "but Bill's the captain and the quarterback."

Other issues are still to be tackled in regard to the project, the mayor said, including some roadwork in the area. That, however, will have to wait until CSX railroad work is completed adjacent to the 57.5-acre industrial site.

Also, Mayor Murray advised, because of the significant investment Phoenix Closures will be making to the property, the city will look at potentially creating a new tax-increment financing (TIF) district in the surrounding area.

Essentially, a TIF district captures the additional assessed valuation in the area resulting from implementation of a particular project, and earmarks that revenue for use within the same specified area.

The lengthy TIF designation process, however, would require approval from the Redevelopment Commission, City Plan Commission and City Council before being fully enacted, the mayor pointed out.

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