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UPDATED: Fort Wayne officials are seeking clean up funds for not one but two major downtown projects

More environmental clean up is coming to the "North River" site thanks to an EPA grant. ( File photo by Kevin Leininger of News-Sentinel.com)
Contamination will have to be removed before the $62 million Riverview project can move forward. (Courtesy image)
John Perlich

Funds are being sought to remove environmental hazards from two major downtown redevelopment sites.

The city, which last year paid $4.63 million for the 30-acre “North River” site just north of the St, Marys River and recently removed an underground storage tank there, is seeking a grant from the state to clean up the former industrial site. And City Council on Tuesday is expected to consider spending up to $354,164 to remove contaminants from the future location of Riverview, a $62.5 million residential, commercial and parking project.

City Council late last year agreed to buy the vacant North River site, formerly an OmniSource scrap yard, even though the deal obligates the city to pay for the removal of any remaining contaminants. Some underground tanks and hazardous substances were removed years ago, but subsequent studies indicated the presence of petroleum contamination, PCBs and metals “exceeding current regulatory default closure levels for residential and industrial use.”

City officials have estimated additional clean up could cost about $250,000. City spokesman John Perlich did not say how much is being sought from the state or whether additional funds might be needed, but noted that the presence of underground storage tanks “are common for older industrial properties.”

Barry Sneed, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said the grant would be used to remove lead and PCB-contaminated soil. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently approved the city’s eligibility to receive a grant through the state’s Brownfields program, which will now work with the city to develop a scope of work and determine costs.

Four potential developers initially expressed interest in the North River site, but that list reportedly has been narrowed to two: Great Lakes Capital, which developed the soon-to-open $35 million Skyline Tower housing and commercial project downtown, and Continental Property Group, which is also developing Riverview.

Perlich said proposals are due next month, after which the city will select a developer. Headwaters Junction, a proposed rail-themed park and attraction, will be part of Continental’s proposal and will host the first of several planned presentations Tuesday at Hop River Brewing, 1515 N. Harrison St., beginning at 6 p.m. For more information on the project, go to headwatersjunction.com.

City officials announced plans for Riverview, which will include 150 residential units, 20,000 square feet of retail space and a 1,000-space parking garage, late last year. The site at 412 S. Calhoun St. is currently a parking lot but for more than 130 years was home to the Allen County Jail until the current facility was built in the 1980s.

As The News-Sentinel first reported in February 2017, the city approached the county about acquiring the site for possible development and inspected the property. Hydraulic oils, gasoline and underground tanks have been discovered, and the contract with IWM Consulting will bring the property into compliance with standards needed for development. Even though the site has been owned by the county, the city is liable for the expense, County Commissioner Nelson Peters said.

Economic Development income taxes could be tapped for the cleanup, which is essential if the project is to move forward.

“Again, this is not uncommon for older industrial sites,” Perlich said. “We are finalizing costs and continue to coordinate with the county on the work. We do not anticipate an impact on the timing (of the project).”

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