City readies industrial site clean up plan
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Monday, October 15, 2012
10/15/12 at 7:05 AM
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Oklahoma brownfields, which are an
urban, abandoned or underused contaminated
The former Evans-Fintube industrial buildings in north Tulsa are vacant and rusted with numerous broken windows and bullet holes.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett knows well the 25-acre site's redevelopment challenges, but he also sees the potential.
"This could be a great asset to the city, contributing to the tax rolls and the business community," he told the Tulsa World. "We just have to get it there."
The city is in the process of finalizing a north Tulsa brownfields strategic action plan, funded with a $175,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant, that includes six targeted properties, including the city-owned Evans-Fintube complex in the 100 block of North Lansing Avenue.
The others are the city's former Morton Health Center, 636 E. Pine St.; and four privately owned properties: former gas stations at 3519 N. Hartford Ave. and 1047 E. Apache St.; Apache Circle in the 500 block of East Apache St.; and a shopping center in the 2100 block of North Cincinnati Avenue.
Tulsa was one of 23 cities across the country and the only one in Oklahoma to be part of the EPA pilot program.
Brownfields, by definition, are industrial or commercial properties that are abandoned or under utilized and have or potentially have environmental contamination that makes redevelopment difficult.
The EPA program's focus is to group multiple brownfield efforts together to spur an entire area's revitalization rather than simply an individual site, city Chief Economic Development Officer Clay Bird explained.
Tulsa's plan area encompasses Interstate 244 to 36th Street North and Cincinnati to Peoria avenues, and has been limited to a half dozen sites to keep it manageable, Bird said.
The sites were selected by the city, working with Denver-based EFG Brownfield Partners, after a lengthy process of reviewing public records and gathering input at public meetings from the people who live around them.
"We're not saying that these are the only brownfield sites in Tulsa because they exist all over the city," Bird said. "These are just the ones we are choosing to focus on right now."
Once the plan is done, the EPA has agreed to conduct targeted brownfield assessments on the four privately owned properties to determine the extent and nature of the contamination and estimate costs.
Such assessments already have been completed for the city's former Evans-Fintube and Morton Health Center properties, Bird said.
The city will seek EPA grant funding to help with cleanup efforts - acting as a conduit for the private owners, if they choose to move forward. The plan includes possible redevelopment ideas for each site to consider.
City officials are already in the process of applying for $600,000 in EPA grant funding for the Evans-Fintube site.
But with a cleanup estimated to exceed $1 million, the city is dedicated to coming up with its own money for the project.
"We're not going to quit until this is done," Bird said.
Evans-Fintube has long been seen as a site with great potential because of its proximity to downtown and the Oklahoma State University-Tulsa campus. Its location along rail tracks and U.S. 75 has prompted some to suggest it would be ideal as a transportation hub.
The mayor and City Council have allocated $471,000 of Tulsa's potential $158 million Vision2 quality-of-life share - if it is approved by voters Nov. 6 - toward local brownfield cleanup efforts.
Bartlett had wanted at least $5 million, but the council didn't agree.
Council Chairman G.T. Bynum said councilors are supportive of finding additional brownfield funding.
"The reason for the reduction from the mayor's request was purely a factor of weighing priorities," he said, noting that Bartlett had only recommended $55 million for low-water dams, while the council allocated $71 million.
The consensus on the council, Bynum said, was that this is something that can be funded through the city's own capital projects initiatives, possibly through the Fix Our Streets/third penny/general obligation bond renewal that will be sought sometime next year.
"That money would come online immediately," he said. "We won't have to wait five or more years (like with the Tulsa County Vision2 package)."
If the Vision2 funding comes through, Bird said, it would send a clear message to the EPA.
"It would certainly show that we are serious about this," he said, "and it will help us leverage dollars from them."
Ideally, the city could eventually establish its own brownfields fund from which local property owners could apply for grants or zero- interest loans for cleanups, Bird said.
After the experience of putting together a brownfields strategic plan for north Tulsa, city officials hope to replicate it in other areas, perhaps on the west side where there are numerous potential sites.
"These kinds of sites can be hard to redevelop," Bird said, "but they benefit no one by being in the state that they are in."
Original Print Headline: Industrial site cleanup studied
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
Mayor Dewey Bartlett stands at the former Evans-Fintube facility near downtown Tulsa. The site is among those on the city's list of environmentally-troubled brownfields. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Construction debris litters a yard at the former Evans-Fintube facility near downtown Tulsa. The site is one of those on the city's list of environmentally troubled brownfield sites. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World