CRDC Brownfields Update: City of Concord, Tannery Cleanup


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New Hampshire Union Leader 04/19/2015   Who said they aren’t making any more land? Tannery site cleanup: It’s taken money and time, but the site of a former mill is slowly
New Hampshire Union Leader 04/19/2015
 
Who said they aren’t making any more land?
Tannery site cleanup:
It’s taken money and time, but the site of a former mill is slowly being cleaned up and put back on the market for development. 
 
By MICHAEL COUSINEAU 
 
CONCORD — On the site that once housed the state’s largest stone mill, city leaders have spent nearly $5 million to clean up a polluted former textile and tannery site in an effort to generate jobs and city tax dollars. 
 
It’s a case of spend a little to make a little ... but first a history lesson. 
 
Rewind to the mid-19th century when a textile mill, known later as the New Hampshire Spinning Mills, opened and over the years produced high-quality yarns and cotton cloth from its hydro-powered mill building constructed from granite. 
 
In its heyday as a textile producer, the 370-foot mill maintained 175 workers, nearly 40 looms and 20,000 spindles. 
 
But the Great Depression hastened the textile mill’s demise in the 1930s. The following decade, a tannery opened there, its 200 workers fulfilling defense contracts tied to World War II. 
 
The Allied Leather Co., Penacook’s second biggest employer, shut the mill in 1987, idling about 300 workers, half as many compared to its high point. In 2001, the city condemned the site and has been working for years to clean up the cancer-causing pollutants on about six acres. 
 
City leaders had hoped to preserve the Penacook Mill, but a partial collapse on Halloween in 2007 led to its $300,000 demolition. 
 
The city got two acres back on the tax rolls in 2011 when it sold the cleaned-up property to a Vermont developer who built a medical building it rents for a doctors offices and a medical lab, produc 
 
ing about $60,000 a year in city property taxes. 
 
Ready to market 
 
Now, after spending nearly $5 million of mainly city, state and federal funds — including $400,000 in stimulus money, the city is almost ready to market another 2.5 to 3 acres to developers. 
 
“The overarching goal is to take a blighted contaminated piece of property, which is essentially worthless, and turn it back on to the tax rolls,” said Matthew Walsh, Concord’s director of redevelopment, downtown services and special projects. 
 
The city is reserving another 1.5 acres or so for a riverfront park along the Contoocook River, including a half-acre adjoining piece that was not part of the tannery site that the city bought and cleaned up. 
 
“I honestly think it’s about time,” said Wayne Morse, who works at Fox Ace Hardware around the corner and has lived in Penacook since 1984. 
 
He would like to see a small supermarket but isn’t optimistic. He welcomed the idea of a public park. 
 
Morse said he thinks the $5 million was money well spent. 
 
“Oh, yeah, from a safety standpoint,” he said. 
 
But it may take a few years to unlock the site’s potential. 
 
“We’re probably 2 1/2 years out from the site being fully developed and being 100 percent totally used,” Walsh said. 
 
Walsh hopes the unused site will bring $100,000 to $160,000 in yearly property taxes to the city as well as stimulate more nearby development. 
 
This month, the city hired a real estate agency. 
 
“We’re also in the process of doing some conceptual site plans to show developers what we think the opportunities are for the property for redevelopment,” he said. 
 
Blueprint for redevelopment 
 
Walsh said the Penacook project could be a model for other communities. 
 
“You have to be creative in chasing down all the funding dollars out there to support that,” he said. 
 
For the Penacook project, that meant 41 percent in federal money, 38 percent in city money, 13 percent of state money, 6 percent from the Capital Regional Development Council and 2 percent from insurance. 
 
Cleanup funds included nearly $1.4 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and $306,000 from the CRDC, which provides grants and loans for so-called brownfield sites, which are less hazardous than Superfund sites, using EPA funds as well. 
 
“It’s come a long way in the last five years,” said Stephen Heavener, the council’s executive director. “It was a real mess for a long time.” 
 
Walsh said CRDC funds “played a crucial role in helping the city get it done.” 
 
Nearly 1,900 tons of soil were disposed off-site, including at the Turnkey Landfill in Rochester, ESMI in Loudon as well as in Vermont and Canada. 
 
Some contaminated soils were capped on site in locations that most likely will be used for parking after any redevelopment efforts, Walsh said. 
 
The state has identified 154 active brownfield sites that are in various states of cleanup as well as 91 sites already completed. 
 
“A brownfield site is defined simply as property where the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant,” said James Martin, public information officer for the state Department of Environmental Services. 
 
The state also is home to 20 EPA Superfund sites. Only one, the Granite State Superfund site, in Londonderry, has ever been delisted. “A Superfund site is considered among the worst contaminated sites that present the greatest risk to public health and welfare or to the environment and will require long-term clean up and management,” Martin said. 
 
The CRDC has provided grants for projects in Hudson, Tilton, Richmond and Keene and still has about $600,000 left it can provide in loans to private industry involved with brownfield properties. 
 
Domenic Ciavarro, vice president of facilities for Concord Hospital, has no qualms about the site for Concord Hospital’s labdraw area and the Concord Hospital Medical Group’s Penacook Family Physicians, which was less than a quarter-mile away. 
 
“We wanted to stay in the village, and that site was available,” he said. “We’re hopeful someone will be a neighbor.
 
Copyright © 2015 Union Leader Corporation. All rights reserved. 04/19/2015


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