City of Quincy
A decaying and derelict property on Quincy’s Intervale Street will finally be getting some TLC with the much-needed help of a state grant.
The $358,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant, given by the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, will allow the city to assess the environmental problems at the site resulting from years of neglect and waste storage, as well as demolition a seedy, fire-gutted building.
“I’m thrilled. It’s terrific,” said West Quincy City Councilor Brian Palmucci. “This grant allows us to clean up what’s been a longstanding problem in the neighborhood … There would be no forward progress on this site if this cleanup process wasn’t done. It would sit there, as it has for years and years, if we didn’t get this aid.”
The city has already put in approximately $12,500 in Capital Improvement Plan funds to do some immediate fixes, but the larger project would require more.
The Brownfields money, along with $18,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection, is the first of a two-part process to bring the property up to code. Once the building has been demolished and an assessment of the property done, the real work of environmental mediation begins, said Urban Renewal Planner Robert Stevens.
Funding for that is not yet in place, but city officials have a plan.
“The Environmental Protection Agency is on a yearly grant cycle, applications are usually due in November. But it’s our hope to get a handle on what’s there and the best way to remediate the soil and submit an application directly to the EPA in November,” Stevens said. “If we win, [the project] will take place in 2014.”
The end goal is to sell the property at auction to the highest bidder in order to recoup some of the back taxes. The project will also put the property back on the tax rolls
“This Brownfields project is another great example of the City boosting its economic development by strengthening its tax base,” said Mayor Thomas Koch in a release. “We are grateful to receive assistance from the MassDevelopment to help us get this site back to active use.”
The property was bustling in its heyday, beginning as a metal scrapping yard in the 1940s. The business soon morphed into a metal scrapping, tire removal/recycling, and manhole cover recoating yard.
A fire in 1986 brought all that to a halt, and fire crews fending off the blaze spilled a 55-gallon drum containing unspecified materials, worsening the conditions of the site.
The property has sat dormant since then, and back taxes in excess of $680,000 slowly accrued on the property until the city acquired the building and lot through Tax Title processes in 2009.
According to Stevens, the city reached out to state agencies to begin to solve the problem in spring 2012, and discovered that to be eligible for a grant, they had to secure the site and remove any immediate environmental threats.
While plans began to stabilize the site, a larger project was developed to bring the site back on track.
“Because the city owned some parcel through the tax title process, we would have been on the hook if it was deemed an imminent hazard,” Stevens said. “We pulled three firms to come in and get rid of the tanks on an immediate basis. We ended up choosing Woodard & Curran and part of that was they said they would go forward at no cost for a scope of full services to do the site assessment.”
With aid from Woodard & Curran, the city submitted an application with the state in April for funds to do more extensive cleanup work, and entered into the agreement for the initial work in June.
Assessment began in July, and demolition of the building will occur before the end of the summer. The entire first phase should be complete by spring 2014.
While Stevens said it was premature to say what the site may eventually be turned into, Palmucci said he plans to work closely with potential developers.
“As a ward councilor, I live in concern that things that don’t fit the neighborhood would go somewhere. This property is no different,” he said. “I would hope interested parties in this parcel would reach out to me to discuss what might works for neighbors there, and whoever the successful bidder is, the use isn’t in conflict with the well being of the neighborhood and we can have a community meeting and discuss what the impacts will be.”
Though the city doesn’t retain a lot of jurisdictional control for as of right uses in the industrially zoned parcel, Palmucci still hopes development can be a conversation.
“I don’t think anyone who will make a financial investment wants to in their first foray…do something that agitates the neighborhood and city,” he said.