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Land Revitalization Spring '08 Newsletter – Vacant Hulk Ready for Ruin to Fulfill Lehigh Riverfront Vision

Allentown, Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Riverfront is populated by a number of buildings that were once the heart of several industries.  Many now stand empty, such as the Calo Building, a mammoth three-story structure, built of concrete and reinforced with steel bar.  The Lehigh Valley Transit Company built it as the garage and power-distribution center for the regional trolley line.  A pet-food manufacturer used it briefly – hence, the name Calo -- but it has been vacant for over 30 years.
   

Calo Building on the bank of the Lehigh River, ready for ruin.

Calo Building on the bank of the Lehigh River, ready for ruin.

About 20 years ago, the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) bought the Calo Building as part of a redevelopment vision called “Lehigh Landing.”  Making this vision a reality was slow going until the spring of 2008 when the America on Wheels Museum opened.  This transportation museum, located just south of the Calo building where an old slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant once stood, has brought new life to the riverfront, along with renewed interest in the vision for Lehigh Landing.  Unfortunately, the resources necessary to rehabilitate the Calo Building site had not been found – until this year.

In early 2008, AEDC reached out to the City of Allentown and Lehigh County Department of Community and Economic Development for assistance – but the Calo Building poses quite an environmental challenge.  Residual PCBs permeate the site, as well as impacts from other petroleum products.   A partial basement contains several feet of water with a petroleum substance floating on top.  Supposedly, a “massive spill” at the site occurred in the 1970s.  These environmental impacts make the redevelopment or demolition of the building costly.  But thanks to the pooling of several resources, the site is finally moving forward.

Northampton and Lehigh counties, which together constitute the Lehigh Valley, joined forces in 1998 to fund a regional brownfields effort called the Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative (LVLRI).  Eventually, it became a project of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.

LVLRI has received five EPA Assessment Grants totaling $1 million, and it coordinates the two counties’ Brownfield Cleanup Revolving Loan Funds (BCRLF) of $500,000 each.  LVLRI, the City of Allentown, and the County of Lehigh agreed to work with AEDC to utilize both the city’s and the county’s BCRLFs in the Calo Building project.

HDR Engineering, Inc., which has been deeply involved in brownfields remediation in the region for many years, assessed the building’s structure and determined that BCRLF funds could be used for its demolition.  The County of Lehigh will provide a sub-grant of $200,000 and a loan of approximately $275,000 to AEDC to pay for the remediation and demolition of the building.

LVLRI’s consultant, Moonstone Properties, LLC, will create the necessary plans and agency submittals, and HDR will serve as site manager for the county in accordance with the requirements of the BCRLF agreement.  The City of Allentown will also supply funding to the project through the EPA BCRLF program.  These two EPA funding sources are critical in making this redevelopment a possibility.
 
LVLRI set up an initial meeting amongst EPA Region 3, PADEP, City of Allentown, County of Lehigh, HDR, and AEDC.  This meeting was critical in laying out the timeline and work plan for the project.  At the meeting, tasks were assigned necessary to meet PADEP’s cleanup standards and the requirements of the BCRLF.  Currently, the city, the county, and AEDC are reviewing the loan/sub-grant agreements.
 
AEDC intends to have a clean pad site by March 2009.  And then, the possibilities will be endless.

Article contributed by
Holly Edinger
Coordinator, Land Recycling
Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Brownfields & Land Revitalization


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