Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England
Robertson on the River - Taunton, MA
Assessment Grant, EPA
Revolving Loan Fund and EPA
Grantee: City of Taunton (contacts) & The Weir Economic and Industrial Revitalization (WEIR) Corporation (contacts)
Summary: Abandoned, polluted mill property in a distressed area of Taunton, MA is cleaned up and made into affordable housing and commercial space.
Over the years, the Robertson Mill at 120 Ingell Street in the Weir Village neighborhood in the City of Taunton, MA has housed a cotton factory, hosiery and yarn manufacturers, and most recently the Robertson Factories, manufacturers of curtains.
However, economic decline in the 1970's turned the once-bustling seaport of Weir Village into a blighted, contaminated, and underutilized area. By 1993, one million square feet of manufacturing facilities and lots lay vacant, abandoned, and contaminated. The area suffered decades of economic decline, resulting in a one-mile-long stretch of industrial area containing about 15 hazardous waste sites. These sites and their real and perceived contamination contributed in making this area one of the most blighted and underutilized areas of Taunton. The mill suffered as well, the building being 75% unoccupied by 2003. The mill needed to be cleaned up.
The Village of Weir also contains a dense residential area and a historic village commercial center. Although it consists of just 15% of the total land area of the City of Taunton, the historic Weir neighborhood contains approximately 31% (17,432 residents) of the city's total population. This densely-populated area encompasses two Community Development Block Grant Target Areas that have over 51% low-income households, and is an “Economic Opportunity Area of the State”. The poverty rate is 13.5% - higher than the City at 8.3% and the State at 8.9%. The unemployment rate, although comparable to that of the City, exceeds that of both the region and the state. This area also has a lower high school graduation rate and a significantly lower college graduation rate than the city, region, or state. According to 2000 Census socioeconomic data, the Weir neighborhood has a higher minority population than the city, the region or the state, with 45% of the city's African-American population and 49% of the city's Hispanic population. It also has a growing population of Asian and Cape Verdean residents. In Weir Village, residential housing surrounds brownfield properties littered with old tanks, crumbling containment walls, and rusting metal infrastructures making these hazards easily accessible to neighborhood residents and children.
Financial help came in the form of a $500,000 EPA grant to the City of Taunton in 2001, from which the City of Taunton supported the Robertson on the River project through a subgrant for $148,000 and a loan in the amount of $140,000. In addition, the EPA granted $52,000 directly to the Weir Corporation. There were multiple partners that provided financial assistance for this project: Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, Massachusetts Housing Partnership, Mass Housing, Mass Development, Massachusetts Historical Commission, CEDAC, Bank of America and Bristol County Savings Bank,
Because of its planned use as residential space, a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment was conducted, and it was determined that remedial cleanup action was required. A subsurface investigation showed concentrations of PAHs, lead, and C11-C12 aromatics that exceeded the Massachusetts Contingency Plan's reportable concentrations. In the past, three rail spurs from the adjacent CSX rail serviced the mill, and soil borings showed that the high PAH and lead levels were concentrated in the former rail bed areas. The EPA Brownfields Cleanup Grant helped in remediation of the site which included the excavation of the top three feet of soil along these rail spurs and replacement of the clean fill. Asbestos materials, underground storage tanks, and transformers were also removed.
The Robertson Mill was cleaned up, restored, and renovated to provide affordable housing and commercial space to the Village of Weir. The “Robertson on the River” project converted the 6.6 acre Robertson Mill site into 64 “loft-style” affordable residential units and 18,000 square feet of commercial space for businesses on the first floor. This was a historical renovation of the mill which utilized historic tax credits. It is also a model for “smart growth” development in Massachusetts. The site boasts riverfront green space, a playground, and a basketball court.
With help from the EPA Brownfields and many other organizations, the redevelopment of this mill will provide much-needed affordable housing, green space, and safe places for kids to play.
1970's: Weir Village experienced a significant economic decline
1993: 1,000,000 sq. ft. of property was assessed as vacant, abandoned and contaminated
2000: Census reported Weir neighborhood had a higher minority population than the city, region and the state.
2001: EPA awards City of Taunton with a $500,000 grant
- 2003: The Mill was estimated to be 75% unoccupied
- $500,000 grant to the City of Taunton
- $52,000 grant to Weir Corporation
- City of Taunton
- $148,000 grant to Weir Corporation
- $140,000 loan to Weir Corporation
- Massachusetts Dept of Housing and Community Development
- Massachusetts Housing Partnership
- MASS Housing
- Massachusetts Historical Commission
- Bank Of America
- Bristol County Savings Bank