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Land Revitalization Summer '06 Newsletter – Not Your Typical Brownfield

The Overbrook Environmental Education Center is one of the most unique and innovative projects in the mid-Atlantic region. This former quarry in the 6100 block of Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia is being turned into one of, if not the first urban environmental education centers developed along a commercial corridor thanks, in part, to an EPA targeted brownfield assessment.

Unlike typical brownfields assessment grants, under targeted brownfield assessments, also called TBAs, EPA contractors perform assessments and identify contaminants that need to be cleaned up prior to redevelopment. It is then up to the customer to develop a remediation plan. The Overbrook site is one of 10 active targeted brownfield assessment projects in the mid-Atlantic region.

The assessment of the Overbrook site identified some problems with arsenic in storm grading and some lead in soil issues that will need to be addressed. When the cleanup and construction are complete, the center will provide an urban oasis complete with native plantings, outdoor biology labs and green architecture.

The project grew out of a perceived need for students at Overbrook High School to learn more about their natural environment.

"There's no way to learn about the environment without being in the environment," says Jerome Shabazz, an Overbrook parent and executive Director of JASTECH Development Services. JASTECH is a non-profit development corporation which is developing the center.

The OCC building is designed with Leadership in Environment and Energy Design (LEED) standards. This 46,000 square foot facility has preserved 60% of its site as "open green-space." Artist's rendering of new Overbrook facility

The center's curriculum will include: the environmental history of the area; environmental economics; pollution; sustainable technology; water cycles; green roofing; storm and waste water management; and urban watershed stewardship. The center will provide programs for students throughout the region.

The first phase of construction is expected to be completed this year. It will include a bio-retention basin, an urban garden consisting of native plants and green roofing. When complete, the center will be a living laboratory for measuring environmental indicators, such as the impact of road salt on water quality and specific applications of beneficial remediation.

Interior and exterior. The larger of the two buildings on site will be salvaged and renovated.
Interior Building
Exterior Building

"The center will be a great learning tool for students to get to know how their lives affect the environment and the environment affects their lives. This is exciting because it takes students out of the classroom, and brings them in tune with what's really happening," said Joe Nowak, targeted brownfields assessment grant manager for EPA.

The Overbrook Environmental Education Center was recently selected for a stormwater best management practices award presented in May 2006 at the Academy of Natural Sciences. It was also one of four projects selected to give a 20-minute presentation as part of a plenary session panel at the 2006 Urban Watersheds Revitalization Conference in May. The one-day conference, co-sponsored by the Philadelphia Water Department and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, was held at Villanova University.

Overbrook Environmental Education Center has created a website about their project at http://overbrookcenter.org/. Click here to read the "Exit EPA Website" Disclaimer

Return to Spring 2006 Newsletter

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

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