‘Long, Long Process’ To Reuse Brownfields

by boaadmin

Article reposted from the Olean Times Herald.

original article

OLEAN — Though efforts to overhaul the city’s downtown have taken the spotlight in recent months, work continues on bringing new life to the industrial corridor in northern Olean.

On Thursday evening, those overseeing the intended redevelopment of the city’s brownfields will be presented with the results of a comprehensive study of the dormant industrial zone conducted by Bergmann Associates. While the meeting is closed to the public, Mary George, the city’s Community Development coordinator, said a similar gathering will be held for the community in the near future.

“This meeting is for our steering committee for the brownfields,” Mrs. George said. “It will be where the consultants are reporting back to us on what they found looking at the area and a few of its sites.”

The brownfields, a 500-acre former industrial site where contamination has impeded redevelopment, are located off of Buffalo Street near Interstate 86. The parcel was home to tanneries, glass and brick manufacturers, railroad maintenance shops, industrial equipment manufacturers and chemical manufacturers dating back to the 1850s. Many of those former businesses were dismantled by the 1950s, but left traces of petroleum and chemicals in the soil after their shutdown.

Bergmann’s study, which is more than 100 pages long, “goes over demographics, existing conditions, marketing conditions, and inventory” of the brownfields, Mrs. George said.

“It’s really an analysis of everything about the brownfields and some particular sites that could be redeveloped quickly,” she said, “and we’ll be using its findings as we move forward to refine what could be done there.”

She noted the study was expanded to include another 400 acres of land immediately surrounding the brownfield site — primarily the residential neighborhoods of Ward 7 where the industrial zone is located.

“We included the (neighborhoods) because, although they’re not on the site, they are affected by any work that is done,” Mrs. George said. “We wanted to use (the expansion) as a way to better educate the public and include them in this process.”

When the committee holds public meetings on the study, Mrs. George said comments made by area residents on the document will be taken into consideration as work continues to bring new life to the brownfields.

In August, city lawmakers approved a $357,010 contract for Bergmann’s study, which was mostly funded by a state grant the city received in 2009. The city and its Urban Renewal Agency also contributed money toward the consulting firm’s work.

The study is the culmination of Bergmann’s recent work to examine the brownfield area and identify its strengths, weaknesses and the impact its redevelopment will have on the surrounding neighborhood and city. It builds off of a previous examination of the parcel conducted in 2007, in which the city took an overall look at the site’s potential for redevelopment, as well as comments from those living in Ward 7 collected last fall.

In recent years, some work has been completed to prepare the site for new businesses and uses.

During the summer of 2010, crews from Exxon Mobil tore down nine vacant structures located within a 60-acre plot of the site. In addition, crews also excavated thousands of feet of an underground pipe network.

The following summer, crews with the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation completed environmental remediation work at a 2-acre plot of the brownfields near Franklin Street where Socony Vacuum was once located. At that site, which is now home to Scott Rotary Seals, crews removed 5,800 feet of subsurface piping and disposed of more than 2,000 tons of contaminated soil.

At both the Exxon Mobil and Socony Vacuum sites, groundwater monitoring systems were installed to continually check for contamination.

Though the completion of the study now brings the brownfields a step closer to revitalization, Mrs. George said, city resident’s shouldn’t plan on seeing any new buildings or development at the site anytime soon.

“This is going to be a very long, long process,” she said. “This is a very large project … and it will be at least 12 to 15 months before we make any types of decisions on this. It’s prime area for commercial redevelopment.”