South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Environmental assessment approval a step forward in mall redevelopment

Centrum happy to participate in program, Hawkinson says

Approval of an environmental assessment at Crestwood Court has moved Centrum Properties and the city of Crestwood one step closer to the redevelopment of the mall at no immediate additional cost.

Mayor Jeff Schlink told the Board of Aldermen last week that talks with Centrum since the previous board meeting have been “extremely positive,” and the entire Crestwood Court property will be reviewed through the Brownfields Assessment Program of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

“This is a step forward, and it’s a step in a positive direction,” Schlink said.

Rebecca Hawkinson, of Centrum Properties, told the board Centrum is “happy” to assure the Crestwood community that the property “will be clean when (they) move forward with development.”

Hawkinson also said Centrum, which owns the mall with Angelo, Gordon & Co., has always included the environmental cleanup costs in the “overall construction and demolition costs.”

“This is not our first time doing something like this, we’re very experienced with it …,” she said. “(We) just want to ensure you all that we’re aware of the situation. We have an assessment of the overall cost of what it will cost to clean up. We’re happy to participate in this program …”

Catherine Jones, of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, presented information to the board about the Brownfields Assessment Program and the Voluntary Cleanup Program, or VCP.

A brownfield, according to Jones, is a “real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which is complicated because of the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance.” Jones said there is potential for the presence of lead-based paint and asbestos at Crestwood Court.

The assessment, which has two phases, will determine if “contamination is present” and to what degree, according to Jones. A “property history survey” that identifies recognized environmental conditions, or RECs, occurs in phase one.

“(RECs are) something that would just indicate that we need to do some further investigation here because there was something in the history of the property’s uses or the property’s ownership that indicates there might be some kind of hazardous condition there,” she said.

If hazardous conditions are found, Jones said phase two assessment may be conducted, in which the Missouri DNR takes samples from the property, such as paint chips, pieces of flooring or any items that were identified as potential RECs.

Jones said the environmental assessment includes a consent-for-access agreement, which Centrum Properties has signed.

“That doesn’t mean we get a key and we can go on whenever we want to,” Jones said. “When our environmental company is selected to do the assessment, that environmental company will be in touch with the applicant … to make arrangements to gain access to the property.”

At the end of each phase, a report is given to the applicant, Crestwood. Schlink said the city will share the report with Centrum.

Previous assessment

Part of the Brownfields Assessment Program application asks if previous assessments have been completed on the property.

The Hillman Environmental Group performed an environmental assessment on the mall site in 2001. That assessment found potential for lead-based paint and leaking of hydraulic fluid from an elevator shaft, among other RECs.

Jones said the assessment from 2001 is provided to the four environmental companies the DNR seeks bids from to show what has already occurred on the property.

“They’ll still have to interview the owners and the people who live nearby or somebody who has whatever fits those standards and those qualifications, but (the previous assessment is) not going to waste,” she said. “It’s there. They will review that information and make sure they believe that it’s complete because the companies do do things differently.”

Voluntary Cleanup Program

If cleanup or remediation is necessary after phase two, the applicant is contacted to discuss options such as participating in the DNR’s Voluntary Cleanup Program.

The VCP, according to Jones, offers “technical assistance and oversight” through its project managers, who are scientists assigned to the project. In addition to other responsibilities, project managers approve and request work plans for the cleanup, which Jones said is generally paid for by the property owner.

“If they enroll in our program, we kind of oversee what everybody is doing,” she said. “We approve the cleanup plans in advance and make sure that everything is done to the specifications of the state and the federal regulations. We can suggest quicker, maybe efficient and some cost-saving improvements …”

The VCP has a $200 application fee to cover the cost of reviewing reports and ensuring the property is eligible for the program, Jones said. Once the project is approved, an average deposit of $3,000 to $3,500 is required in a format similar to an escrow account, according to Jones.

If a project costs more than the amount deposited in the account, Centrum would be billed on a quarterly basis for the hourly time of the project manager. If all of the funds are not used, the remaining money is returned to Centrum.

The 18- to 24-month cleanup process begins with the submission of the application to the DNR, but does not necessarily halt redevelopment.

“In this case, it’s a large building, multiple buildings. If one portion of it doesn’t have any RECs and doesn’t need any cleanup or remediation, the redevelopment can start over there while we work over here on remediating these things,” Jones said.

More to Discover