TOD Redevelopment Project (2007 Grant)

Completed in 2011

INTRODUCTION:

The City of Blue Island is a 4.5 square mile, 170-year-old city of 23,500 people that borders the southwest corner of Chicago.  Its current land use patterns and economic status reflect its history as a transportation and industrial hub, with a downtown Main Street shopping district.  In 2005, the City adopted the Blue Island Plan for Economic Development (created by Center for Neighborhood Technology), which proposes redevelopment based on Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) around the Vermont Street Metra station area.  The Blue Island Plan is available online at http://www.cnt.org/smart-communities/blue-island.

In 2007, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) awarded Blue Island a Community-Wide Assessment grant for the development of a citywide Brownfields program and the assessment of properties located in its Transit-Oriented Development areas.  This grant will enable the City to establish a community-wide Brownfields Program, inventory and prioritize Brownfield sites with the TOD areas, identify & evaluate potential environmental issues at these properties, and develop strategies to address such issues.

PROJECT AREA:

TOD Redevelopment Areas

2007 Brownfields Assessment Grant: TOD Redevelopment Areas


TOD Subarea 1: South Station Area

Blue Island’s TOD redevelopment plans focus around the two Vermont Street Metra stations.  Current land uses in this South Station Area include industrial, commercial, parking and openspace.  Redevelopment plans propose the construction of mixed-use commercial/residential buildings along Vermont Street and directly adjacent to the train stations and residential (townhouses, apartments & condominiums) development on the remainder.  The South Station Area lies adjacent to the Cal Sag Channel, along which walking paths (currently in preliminary engineering phase) are planned.  Current and former industrial and rail uses increase the likelihood of environmental cleanup issues on parcels within this area.

TOD Subarea 2: Western Avenue/Main Street

The Western Avenue/Main Street commercial district lies approximately two blocks west of the Vermont Street Metra station.  Redevelopment plans intend to strengthen the connection between the South Station Area and the Main Street.  The increase in residential units in the South Station Area should add to the demand for retail and services on Western Avenue; in turn, the revitalization of the Main Street district will strengthen the market for residential units in the South Station Area.  Current uses on Western Avenue include retail/services, restaurants, professional offices and second floor residences.  Future redevelopment plans include the revitalization of existing, historic buildings and the construction of new mixed-use structures containing commercial/office/residential units.  Environmental testing may be necessary for the rehabilitation of older buildings that may contain hazardous construction materials commonly used in the past or that have  ambiguous former, potentially toxic uses (i.e.: drycleaners, etc.).

TOD Subarea 3:  James Street & Old Western Avenue

While acknowledging its distinct character and land uses, the redevelopment of James Street & Old Western Ave is often considered an extension of Western Avenue/Main Street, which lies only one block to its east.  Despite geographic separation by the Cal Sag Channel Street and the Western Avenue overpass, James Street & Old Western Avenue historically were connected by a pedestrian bridge and subsequently share many similarities.  Redevelopment plans for this location call for the reconnection of these two areas through the construction of a pedestrian & bicycle path along an existing railroad bridge that crosses the Channel.

The James Street & Old Western TOD subarea is currently occupied by a mixture of commercial, professional office, industrial and residential uses.  Building on the independent efforts of local residents and business owners who have been revitalizing this area into a professional office, arts (studio & galleries), restaurant and residential district, the City intends to relocate existing industrial uses into more land use appropriate locations and to encourage the rehab or construction of mixed-use housing/office/artisan shop structures.

The anticipated likelihood of need for environmental cleanup in this TOD subarea is high.  In addition to ambiguous industrial uses, there have been known instances of contamination in several of the ground floor commercial spaces of the mixed-use buildings, which have appeared to have been formerly used as work stations or machine shops.  Like the Western Avenue/Main Street Subarea, the older buildings located here may also contain the hazardous materials that were commonly used in earlier construction.

PROJECT TASKS AND SCHEDULE:

The City has identified 6 tasks and has a total project budget of $200,000 for the hazardous (non petroleum) materials grant under the U.S. EPA Brownfields Community-Wide Assessment program.

PROJECT PERIOD:                 Oct. 1, 2007 to December 30, 2010

Task 1: Develop a Citywide Brownfields Program & Inventory                                             Dec 2007-June 2008

Brownfields Program

With the assistance of an environmental consultant, grant funds will be used to develop a sustainable citywide Brownfields program that will tie-in with the City’s existing economic development plan, while building internal staff capacity for addressing environmental issues related to this project and beyond.  The initial steps will include establishing a Brownfields team of staff and volunteers who will serve as the main advisory group for the project and structuring an effective and sustainable model for the new brownfields program.  Program development will also include the creation of strategies and tools that the City will use as ongoing resources for promoting and managing the successful clean up and redevelopment of contaminated properties.

A workshop will be held to gather public input, confirm project goals and refine criteria for identifying priority sites.  In advance of the workshop, the brownfields team will work with the consultant to develop the initial list of ranking criteria and define preliminary goals and objectives for the project.  Staff, Aldermen, local business owners and Blue Island residents will be encouraged to attend.  Additionally, this information will be made available to the public through the City’s website.

Brownfields Inventory

Program development will also include the expansion of the City’s existing GIS system to include brownfields related data fields and data collection/inventory to fill information gaps.

Task 2:  Identify Priority TOD Redevelopment Sites                                               June 2008    

The consultant and staff will use the refined screening criteria developed in Task 1 to assign scores to properties within the project area and to identify a preliminary list of up to 30 priority sites for conducting Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs).  The preliminary list will be finalized (and narrowed down to 25, if necessary) by the Brownfields Team – who will determine which of the identified sites have the highest, market-based redevelopment potential.  The final list will be presented to the Mayor and City Council for approval and to the Cook County Health department as a part of the required consultation.  Per grant requirement, Site Eligibility Determination Requests will be completed and submitted to EPA for each site on the final list.

Task 3: Perform Phase I ESAs                                                                            Aug – Dec 2008

After receiving EPA eligibility approval, 25 Phase I ESAs will be performed.  All Phase I ESAs will be performed in compliance with EPA’s All Appropriate Inquiries; Final Rule (AAI), 40 CFR Part 312 and the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards outlined in the ASTM Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process (Standard E 15272005). The focus of this process will be the identification of Recognized Environmental Conditions.

    • Submit hazardous substance site eligibility determinations to EPA June-Aug]
    • Perform 25 Phase I Environmental Assessments (ESAs)
Task 4:  Perform Two (2) Phase II Investigations                     

4A – Market research & selection of Phase II investigation sites                        Dec 2008 – Feb 2009

To ensure that grant funds are spent on additional investigation of property with the highest redevelopment potential, the consultant will conduct market research to determine which sites are most marketable and which of the proposed land uses identified in the City’s economic development plan are most feasible.  Based on the results of the Phase I ESAs and the market research, a refined list of the most developable properties will be drafted.  From this narrowed list, the Brownfields team will determine which 2 properties should receive Phase II site investigations.

4B – Conduct Two (2)Phase II ESAs                                                                          March – May 2009

Prior to the initiation of Phase II testing, a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) and Health & Safety Plan (HASP) will be prepared and submitted for EPA review and approval.  Once EPA has approved the QAPP & HASP, a Site Sampling and Analysis Plan (SAP) will be submitted for each property.  The SAPs will include information on proposed soil and/or groundwater sample locations, analytical parameters, and frequency of sampling.  Field investigation activities for two (2) properties will be performed in accordance with applicable state and federal protocols.

Task 5:  Develop Preliminary Closure Strategies & Costs  

A)   Compile and Evaluate Data                                                                                   May – July 2009

Phase II analytical results will be compiled and evaluated. This evaluation will include a determination as to where contamination exists, and if so, whether it is of any significance. In addition, contaminant types and concentrations will be identified, and their significant explained. Areas of particular concern will be identified.

B)    Develop closure options and preliminary cost estimates                                      July-Sept 2009

Based on the proposed end use will be residential and retail/commercial, a variety of options will be available to obtain risk-based closure. Such options will be identified on the basis of sampling results, and carefully evaluated relative to the site design and City’s directives.

Task 6:  Outreach and Programming                                            November 2007 & Ongoing                                                               

Community outreach efforts will solicit input as well as keep the public informed on the status of the project.  Communication channels that will be utilized include the City’s web site & television station, media relations, a kiosk at the public library & updates at public meetings.

Quarterly reports and the final report will be prepared and submitted in the prescribed timeframe and format.

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