Mason: Linden Avenue cleanup underway


By Staff Report

When Don Mason decided to run for mayor again, after holding the position previously in his late 20s, one of the promises he made was that he would personally assure the cleanup of the former Lear property along Linden Avenue.

More than just an eyesore, the pile of rubble had real consequences, properties on the opposite side of the street had lost over a third of their values since the buildings came down, perpetuating urban decay in an already struggling neighborhood.

Eventually, Mason hopes the property, once fully cleared, can be a site of economic growth for the city with places to live and shop expanding on private investments already made by establishments such as Rake’s Place.

The set of buildings, often now referenced to as the Lear property, was built in the early 1890s by the American Encaustic Tiling Company, a ceramic products manufacturer. After being sold multiple times, it was purchased by United Technologies Automotive when they acquired Essex Corporation in 1974.

According to historical records, the plant had 1,200 hourly union employees in 1995. In 1999 the Lear Corporation purchased the plant from United Technologies. They closed the Ceramic Avenue site in 2000 and the Lear property was closed during the Great Recession when operations were moved to Mexico.

Pelican Land Holdings purchased the 28-acre property for only $4,000 in 2008, a transaction Mason said he still questions to this day.

“It could have had a new purpose,” said Mason referring to the owner’s decision to simply demolish the structure. “It could have been housing, been commercial developed or been a space for small businesses to get their start.”

Allegedly, the East Coast owners, who are now being sued by the Attorney General, attempted to find a commercial tenant to rent or buy the set of buildings.

In 2014, they began tearing down the structure. No permits were obtained, no fences were set up and soon demolition stopped as well as the removal of material that was being hauled away.

The property then sat, mostly untouched, for the next few years. After Mason won the mayoral election in November of 2019, he got to work.

Zanesville eventually took possession of the property and in mid-December awarded a $731,856 contract to SAFECO Environmental of Dilliner, Pennsylvania. Half a million of that was contributed by the Muskingum County Commissioners.

Mason said that winning bid came in almost one million dollars under the engineer’s estimate. He asked that SAFECO try to use as many local companies as possible to keep dollars in the community.

The contract only covers the cleanup of surface debris and the demolition of any remaining structures. The concrete pads, for example, will remain. Due to some of the debris containing asbestos, special landfills had to be used.

Local hauling companies such as Zemba Bros have been subcontracted to transport the non-asbestos material to a Muskingum County landfill, keeping up with Mason’s request.

The cleanup should be completed in the following months. Mason said they are working with the EPA to hopefully run additional tests to see if any of the ground is contaminated.

Future plans are set to redevelop the site, including the waterfront, which looks across to Riverside Park. Housing, commercial development and various other amenities are currently in the planning stages.

As Mayor, Mason says he is also actively working to ensure a situation like this one won’t happen in the future.

“We just aren’t going to allow that type of activity to take place in Zanesville again,” added Mason.