Firm retools Humboldt Industrial Park

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Camden News readers were told in December 2004 of the development proposal for the 15-acre NW corner of Humboldt Industrial Park (“HIP”) crafted by Real Estate Recycling (“RER”), a firm that specializes in Brownfields clean-up and redevelopment. After five months of work subsequent to unsuccessful pollution grant funding applications in May 2005 by RER principals Paul Hyde and Mac Hyde have brought forth a retooled development proposal positioned for success. The firm has invested $89,900 in environmental investigation, site characterization and preparation of the Response Action Plan (“RAP”.) RER met with Fourth Ward Councilmember Barbara Johnson, CPED staff, and a Shingle Creek neighborhood representative October 13 to outline changes to the development proposal.

Environmental investigation conducted by the firm’s consultant has identified a release at the site. Fill soils at the site near the intersection of 49th Ave. N. and Osseo Rd. are impacted by polyaromatic hydrocarbons (“PAHs”), a carcinogenic compound that according to RER was found “at concentrations that exceed current human-health risk standards for exposure (both for green space and industrial use).” RER intends to inform pollution grant funding authorities that its testing results show that the fill soils “also contain measurable organic vapors” (Diesel Range Organics-DROs) “that exceed the MPCA standard for placement underneath a building floor without a vent system.”

Though it may seem counterintuitive, in the quirky world of Brownfields redevelopment, finding pollution is a good thing. The findings appear to provide justification for pollution clean-up assistance from three significant programs that provide grant funding to remediate “dirty” sites. RER intends to apply to those programs coordinated by the Metropolitan Council (Livable Communities Fund Tax Base Revitalization Grant Program), Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development (Contamination Cleanup Grant Program) and Hennepin County (Environmental Response Fund). The CPED staff report prepared by project coordinator John Harrington indicates that projects in the City have been quite successful since the early 1990s in receiving over $41.3 million in remediation grant funding. Final City Council and Mayoral action to formally support applications to these programs in the Fall 2005 grant round is pending, having progressed through Community Development and Ways and Means/Budget committees.

RER’s revised development proposal contains several key elements. The development has decreased from 15 acres to 10 acres. But the proposed building has been reduced just 17 percent from 150,000 sq. ft. to 125,000 sq. ft. with 245 stalls of surface parking. The original concept proposal called for up to two structures totaling 177,520 sq. ft. in two phases. RER’s development budget has reduced the amount of tax-increment funding (“TIF”) for land acquisition by $900,000. RER is seeking about $500,000 in TIF from the city, tentatively scheduled for action in early 2006. According to RER documents, “the smaller development means the liner in Ryan Creek and the impacted soils underneath the liner will not be disturbed by the project.” The development’s RAP calls for impacted soils at the site to be placed underneath the pavement in the new development, eliminating the need for a costly underfloor vent system and a storm water pond liner. The current property owner, CP Rail, apparently has agreed to facilitate the development by reducing the purchase price over $200,000.

Through an innovative approach that may reduce the soils remediation costs by over $200,000, CP Railroad and developers are partnering to reuse unsuitable organic soils (“peat”) that according to RER “will be sampled, and if clean, used either as fill for the railroad or sold by the railroad to third parties.” And finally, RER is exploring the use of excess environmentally impacted soils from the Minneapolis CPED Heritage Park redevelopment project for use as “clean” backfill for its development in HIP. This move may save Minneapolis taxpayers the cost of disposal of these impacted soils as landfill daily cover while meeting RER’s needs for 32,000-36,000 cubic yards of backfills soils and project savings estimated at $250,000.

The Shingle Creek Neighborhood Association (email scna@stribmail.com) has gone on record in support of the proposed development project. The developers are encouraged by support from Councilmember Johnson and Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat. The Humboldt Industrial Park proposal currently is undergoing plan review by Minneapolis CPED. Among the steps remaining are the partial site rezoning for the site zoned I1 and I2, a replat or lot subdivision of the existing 15-acre tract, the possible need for a conditional use permit to allow a larger warehouse structure, and a potential need for a variance to develop a commercially viable building set back from 49th Ave. N. RER is seeking about $1 million in grant funding and TIF, but expects to leverage $7.6 million private investment to bring about new tax base development and new job opportunities for residents in North Minneapolis.