$1 million cleanup grants keep Duluth projects aliveA multi-use building planned for Duluth’s Chester Park neighborhood and the Lafarge Cement Terminal project are moving closer to reality after more than $1 million in cleanup grants were announced Wednesday.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
A multi-use building planned for Duluth’s Chester Park neighborhood and the Lafarge Cement Terminal project are moving closer to reality after more than $1 million in cleanup grants were announced Wednesday.
Sites for both projects are contaminated. And the projects can’t move forward until the sites are cleaned up.
To help do that, a $999,000 grant has been awarded to the Duluth Economic Development Authority to clean up the 5.8-acre Lafarge site on the downtown Duluth waterfront. Pier B developers plan to build a $32 million hotel, retail, condo and recreational complex.
The grant comes from Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, which also awarded $145,350 to the city of Duluth to clean up vacant lots at the northwest corner of East Eighth Street and 19th Avenue East that are contaminated with petroleum from the gas station and auto repair shop that used to operate on the site.
The combined grants for Duluth are more than any other city received during this round of DEED grants, said its commissioner Mark Phillips. Moreover, none of the other 14 communities cited received two grants.
“It’s a very competitive process, and Duluth has done well,” Phillips said.
In the last 10 years, Duluth has received more than $7.2 million in DEED cleanup grants, city officials say.
Duluth Mayor Don Ness announced the grants at the contaminated Chester Park site on Wednesday.
“It makes it difficult if not impossible to build here,” Ness said adding that such partnerships with the state are necessary for these projects to happen.
The owners of At Sara’s Table/Chester Creek Cafe are behind that neighborhood project. They want to build a 12,000-square-foot mixed-use building on the .65-acre site, offering retail, office and niche rental housing. Taking a sustainable approach, it would be a part two-story, part three-story building with a parking lot and a large raised garden that will help supply produce to the restaurant. The project is expected to cost up to $2.4 million.
The $145,350 grant for that project will cover 50 percent of the estimated cost of cleanup of the site, said Heidi Timm-Bijold, the city’s business resources manager.
The nearly $1 million grant to clean up the LaFarge site will cover half the nearly $2 million soil cleanup costs, said Sandy Hoff, one of Pier B’s principal investors. The remainder of the cleanup up costs will be covered by the investors, he said.
The pier was originally marsh that was filled in in the late 1800s. Over the decades, it has been the site of a paint and oil warehouse, scrap yard, cold storage, rail yard and a cement storage and shipping facility, leaving it contaminated with metals, benzo(a)pyrene, diesel range organics and concrete dust.
“It’s a critical piece to move this project forward,” Hoff said of the $999,000 cleanup grant. “Without these grants, we can’t create a financial picture to make it successful.”
The grant comes just months after a $1 million matching grant in state infrastructure money was awarded for the site’s seawall and roads.
Hoff said cleanup of the LaFarge site will begin in the next six to 12 months with the targeted opening in spring 2014.