News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 27, 2010

Redevelopment commission acquires more of former Coke & Carbon plant site

TERRE HAUTE — A brownfield site that once housed the former Terre Haute Coke & Carbon plant will soon be under the single ownership of the Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission.

The Vigo County Board of Commissioners approved the transfer, expected to close early next week, to allow the city to conduct further environmental site assessments and plan for the cleanup of the nearly 62-acre site at 13th and Hulman streets.

Commissioners assumed ownership of about 24.5 acres on the north side of the property and just over 15 acres on the south side in 2003 after back taxes on those parcels were not paid.

The city purchased the remaining one-third of the property, located in the middle of the site, in 2004 from a seller who had purchased the land in a tax sale.

The site was originally more than 70 acres, but part of the site has been used as a stormwater retention pond, included in the city’s $11 million upgrade of Hulman Street. The county is also retaining a portion of property it leases to Time Warner Cable. Another section is owned by the Terre Haute Quarter Midget Racing Association.

Pat Martin, chief planner for the City of Terre Haute, said the city last month was awarded $400,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for site assessment and planning for cleanup of several brownfield sites, including the former Terre Haute Coke & Carbon site.

“We can continue to investigate the site as one whole parcel and develop a remediation plan once we complete our investigation, which will be ongoing for at least a year or year and a half. We can then develop a remediation plan sometime in late 2011 or early 2012,” Martin said.

The city has completed phase I and phase II environmental site assessments through Indiana Brownfield Program funds, plus a phase II environmental site assessment followup that focused on specific spots, Martin said.

The north and south parcels have undergone a phase I environmental site assessment and a limited phase II environmental site assessment. “These were required by the Indiana Brownfield Program and Indiana Department of Environmental Management to assure them we did our due diligence before taking the property; in other words, we were well aware of what was there,” Martin said.

The site assessments determined where the plant was located, identified storage areas and used ground-penetrating radar and “a magnetometer (used to detect buried metal objects) to determine if anything remained underground that we could not see. With the results of that, we then conducted trench pit tests in a few areas to see what was in those areas,” Martin said.

Martin said the city has “already received what I call a comfort letter from IDEM that absolves us from any past liability. It acknowledges our intent to eventually develop the site with light industrial [companies] with commercial components and it also takes into account that we would have certain greenspace elements in the property itself,” Martin said.

Cliff Lambert, executive director of the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment, said once final environmental studies are complete, the department can seek a consultant to “help us formulate the highest and best possible use” for the property for private development.

The site could be developed for light industrial or high technology companies, commercial offices, perhaps some retail and greenspace, Lambert said. The idea is to develop jobs in the city, he said.

“If commercial or retail is developed, those are likely $10-an-hour jobs,” Lambert said, but high technology companies could hire people at $25 to $40 an hour, while light industry, such as a sheet metal manufacturer, could provide $15- to $18-an-hour jobs.

Lambert estimates the property could provide a maximum of 150 to 200 jobs, depending on what type of private development occurs.

“If we can turn this property back to useful life that can promote some job growth, that would be wonderful. This is just another piece of the puzzle that we’re trying to put together so we are going to have a successful community,” Lambert said.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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