From Brownfields to a Green Future
When thousands of fans jam the American Airlines Center at Victory Park in Dallas, they probably don’t think about old power plants that have long since gone dim. Likewise, visitors who shop and dine at the park aren’t likely to ponder over the fate of long-forgotten landfills. The more than 100 Dallas elementary school students who descend on Victory Park for the 2007 Earth Day celebration on April 19 probably won’t give a care to any of these historical footnotes either.
And that’s fine with Richard Greene, who heads up the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office here. His agency has worked with the State, City of Dallas and Hillwood Development Corp. for more than a decade to transform Victory Park’s environmentally challenged past into a thriving, green future.
“It is one of our most outstanding achievements in brownfields redevelopment and the largest EPA Brownfields project in the country,” Greene said. “To take land that was once home to a city dump, electric plant, and railroad yard and turn it into a place where children and families can live, work and play is the ultimate example of environmental excellence.”
During the Earth Day event at the park, Greene will present a commemorative brownfields plaque that recognizes the exceptional public and private partnerships responsible for the project’s success.
The partnerships that paved the way to Victory Park began in the early 1990s. Like many large cities, Dallas was growing, and many businesses and residents left downtown for the new opportunities offered by surrounding suburbs. This left many properties vacant and in a state of decay. Worries about hazardous materials and cleanup costs were formidable obstacles to redevelopment. To address developer concerns, the City of Dallas made brownfields redevelopment an integral part of its downtown revitalization strategy and created the Dallas Brownfields Program. The program focuses on brownfields -- abandoned, idled or under-used commercial, industrial or residential properties that may face redevelopment challenges because of real or potential environmental contamination.
Brownfields redevelopment goes beyond cleaning up properties, noted Dallas City Councilwoman Linda Koop. “This program has also given us another option to help eliminate urban sprawl, create tax base and jobs, and reduce crime,” Koop said. “It’s been a success, and is a great example of a partnership that works and gets results.”
The City of Dallas brownfields program began with a $200,000 assessment pilot grant from EPA in 1995. Since then, the city has been able to leverage more than $3.4 billion in private and public investment to redevelop 42 brownfields sites. One of the sites given new life as part of the city brownfields program is Victory Park.
The $3 billion multi-use development is one of the largest of its kind currently underway in the country. It offers a collection of retail shops, restaurants, office space, residential units, hotels, and entertainment venues, such as the American Airlines Center. The American Airlines Center was the launch pad for the Victory Park development. In 1997, the City of Dallas formed a public-private partnership with Hillwood Development Corp. to create the sports arena.
Scientists evaluating the then approximately 64-acre site for the project found a variety of problems, including soil contaminated with heavy metals and groundwater polluted by hydrocarbons. Estimated cleanup costs ranged from $5 to $7 million. Hillwood helped finance the environmental investigation and cleanup, while the City of Dallas provided $125 million for public infrastructure and other improvements. About 200,000 cubic yards (15,000 truckloads) of soil had to be removed from the site and 15 million gallons of water treated as part of the cleanup.
“Victory Park is the geographical heart of Dallas,” said Ross Perot, Jr., Chairman, Hillwood Development Company, LLC. “It has been one of Hillwood’s greatest accomplishments to take a blighted piece of land that detracted from the beauty and vibrancy of the city’s core and reclaim it for residents and visitors. This new urban neighborhood, which seamlessly bridges Uptown and downtown, has not only become a destination which we can all be proud of but an example for the rest of the country of responsible and thoughtful development.”
Cleanup work at the site took one year and 10 months, with EPA estimates putting the final cost at $10 million. Oversight of the cleanup was conducted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) which issued certificates of completion under the state’s Voluntary Cleanup Program. The program provides a streamlined, incentive-based process to pursue cleanup of contaminated properties.
“This encourages lenders, developers and prospective purchasers to clean up abandoned or under-utilized properties,” said TCEQ Chairman Kathleen White. “Reuse and revitalization are the keys to success with this program and other cleanup programs across the state.”
In 2001, EPA recognized the American Airlines Center and Victory Park as the nation’s largest and most successful brownfields projects and presented it with a Phoenix Award. The prestigious award is presented for the highest excellence in brownfields redevelopment. Since then, the development has grown and expanded into the 75-acre business and recreation hub we know today. A recent study commissioned by Victory Park and the American Airlines Center showed the development is expected to generate approximately $1 billion annually and create 11,000 jobs by 2009. Such economic benefits are no surprise to the EPA’s Greene, who will quickly tell you that environmental stewardship and economic prosperity go hand-in-hand.
So as the more than 100 Dallas elementary school students are reveling in all the fun and activities as they celebrate Earth Day at Victory Park this year, they won’t even know that just 10 years ago it would have been unsafe for them to set foot on the site. They won’t be thinking of the commitment EPA, the city and a private developer made to turn a polluted property into a city showcase. But that’s okay, because the thought of celebrating Earth Day at Victory Park with Dallas kids and families is the greatest environmental triumph of all.
This news content was configured by WebWire editorial staff. Linking is permitted.
News Release Distribution and Press Release Distribution Services Provided by WebWire.