Ford has reached a deal to sell the Lorain van plant closed a year ago, the Lake Erie city's mayor told a news agency.

Specifics of what the plant will be used for were withheld pending a formal announcement on Wednesday, Mayor Craig Foltin told the Associated Press (AP).

"The deal is done. It will be designed more for industrial jobs, probably light manufacturing, rather than anything like retail," Foltin reportedly said. "For us, this is huge."

AP said the nearly 280-acre site closed on 23 December, 2005, after the plant made its last Econoline van. There had been about 1,600 workers there, but leading up to the close the work force dwindled to about 750. Econoline production and many of the Lorain jobs shifted to Ford's Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, a small city near Lorain.

The report said the buyer, suburban Los Angeles-based Industrial Realty Group, has been involved in about 70 adaptive reuse projects across the United States.

IRG president Stuart Lichter reportedly said his company is pursuing prospective tenants and hopes to announce soon which companies will use the site.

The days of vehicles are apparently over, the Associated Press noted.

"It won't be anything heavy like that. It will be more light manufacturing and assembly," Lichter told the news agency. "It's a huge amount of space for the market it's in, and we will need to do a lot of physical work and make the space usable for smaller companies."

"IRG has a good track record transforming sites into productive commercial and industrial centres," said Jay Gardner, vice president, development and strategy, Ford Land, Ford's real estate arm.

The news agency noted that Lorain's struggle to forge a future without Ford is similar to situations faced by other cities across North America as Ford plans to close 16 plants by 2012.