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Green deconstruction to cost an additional $525,000

Friday, January 22, 2010 by Michael Kanin

Though there is still no official start date for new construction at the Green Water Treatment Plant redevelopment site, developer Perry Lorenz says that the group of investors behind the reworking of the facility is “very close to wrapping up an agreement” with the City of Austin. The team, which is headlined by USAA Real Estate Co., Trammel Crow Co., and Constructive Ventures, Inc, won the right to develop the site in June of 2008 and planned to begin construction this year.

 

But even as the paperwork on the project inches toward completion, additional issues threaten to slow its progress. Last week, Austin’s Water and Wastewater Commission approved a funding amendment that would add $525,000 to the budget for the Green deconstruction and redevelopment plan. If approved by the Council, the new money would, in part, go to pay for the clean up of newly found soil pollutants discovered at that site.

 

The contaminant, a lightweight diesel fuel, was detected during the decommissioning process, when it was found 20 feet below the surface. Cynthia DeWitt Jordan, a project manager with the Austin Department of Public Works says that its presence was not entirely unexpected. “(We) anticipated problems like this but not this specific problem,” she says. “It’s not uncommon to find this material.”

 

Lorenz echoes Jordan’s assessment. “(The presence of the contaminant) is noise in the overall equation,” he says. “It’s not substantive…(and) it’s not one bit unusual.”

 

Still, according to the amendment, “the duration of the decommissioning and deconstruction work currently underway must be extended” to accommodate the new issues. Additional costs to the city will include “on-site construction administration for the project, including monitoring and tracking the proper disposition of additional hazardous wastes and materials recently uncovered.”

 

URS Corporation, an engineering firm that has experience with clean-up operations similar to the one that will now be conducted at the Green site, will continue to handle the deconstruction phase of the redevelopment.

 

As part of the latest round of funding, URS will also conduct site plan corrections, which may alleviate some of the workplace safety concerns that have been raised in connection with the project. Last month, deconstruction efforts were halted when, according to the American-Statesman, “serious workplace safety violations”—rumored to be a risk of on-site cave-ins–were reported.

 

The Green Water Treatment Plant was constructed in 1924 and remained the only such facility to serve Austin for 30 years. By the time decommissioning began in 2008, it was the oldest water treatment plant operated by the city. Its redevelopment will, on completion, include retail space, condominiums, and pedestrian access to the new downtown Central Library.

 

John Rosato of Southwest Strategies Group notes that “2nd St is designed to bisect the Green Development, cross Shoal Creek and to connect to West Ave on the east side of Seaholm allowing completion of a major part of the downtown transportation grid.”

 

The City Council is scheduled to review the $525,000 budget amendment for final approval at next Thursday’s meeting.

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