Launch Slideshow

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Changing blight into beauty

Changing blight into beauty

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    From left: Todd Awe, president of TAG Realty; Amy Meadows, vice president & executive director of The Belo Foundation; Thom Hubacek, landscape architect/ project manager with Dallas Park & Recreation Department; and John Sallman, environmental department manager, principal with Terracon. Photo: David Woo/The Dallas Morning News

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    In 2002, EPA removed 30,000 sites from the Superfund list. Today, the U.S. General Accountability Office estimates the nation harbors 400,000 brownfields. CERCLIS stands for Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System, which is EPA's database of Superfund sites. A regional version is called WasteLAN. Map: U.S. Conference of Mayors

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    Like much of downtown Dallas, the soil below this former surface parking lot and future site of Belo Garden is rife with potentially carcinogenic cinder from a fire in the late 1800s. The inset image shows the land's strata: native soils underlying a former brick-paved road followed by excavated soil. Photos: Terracon Consultants Inc.

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    Hargreaves Associates

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    Hargreaves Associates

    Here's what Belo Garden will look like when completed in 2012. The white arches are fountains.

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    The Hensley Field Operations Center is the only city facility capable of converting sedans, trucks, and other equipment to run on compressed natural gas. Photo: City of Dallas

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CASE STUDY #1: public-private partnerships for park development

Finding the space for a new urban park is difficult. Sites that aren't already developed are usually contaminated, and property's more expensive than less centrally located areas. To overcome such obstacles, Dallas looked for private partners interested in teaming up to redevelop land that could be enjoyed by workers and downtown residents.

One such property had been a surface parking lot for more than 20 years. Adjacent to an underground food court, a high-rise condominium building, and several office buildings, the 1.45-acre parcel was a prime location.

The city partnered with local media company Belo Corp. and its philanthropic arm, The Belo Foundation. Belo Corp. Chairman Robert Decherd and wife Maureen established an endowment to fund repairs and improvements. Under their agreement, the city agreed to buy and turn over development-ready property that it will maintain once construction is complete. Belo Garden Development LLC is contracting landscape design, paying for construction, and retains naming rights for the park, now known as Belo Garden.

PROJECT: Belo Garden (www.belogarden.com)
OWNER: Dallas Parks and Recreation Department
COST: $13.2 million
PUBLIC SHARE: $6.5 million in city bonds and $2 million in other city sources; $200,000 EPA Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund subgrant through the North Central Texas Council of Governments
PRIVATE SHARE: $3 million from Belo Corp., $2.5 million from The Belo Foundation, and $1 million from Belo Corp. Chairman Robert Decherd and wife, Maureen, for the endowment. Belo entities matched the $6.5 million in city bonds on a one-to-one basis.
DESIGN: Hargreaves Associates
SITE ASSESSMENT, CHARACTERIZATION, AND REMEDIATION: Terracon Consultants Inc.
ESTIMATED COMPLETION DATE: February 2012




In late 2006, the city hired outside expertise to conduct a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. Terracon Consultants Inc. determined the site had been used for petroleum/oil facilities, hat manufacturing, an automotive maintenance garage, and a paint spraying operation. It also contains up to 15 feet of non-native fill including construction rubble such as brick, concrete, glass, wood, and — interestingly — cinder.

Turns out a devastating fire destroyed most of Dallas in the late 1800s. So in addition to elevated concentrations of heavy metals, the soil contained cinder. Though it's a naturally occurring byproduct of organic material that doesn't completely burn, cinder contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These are a broad range of compounds that includes suspect and known carcinogens.

Initial subsurface investigation found arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead, mercury, selenium, and silver as well as PAHs including benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(a)anthracene, benzo(b) fluoranthene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, dibenz(a,h)anthracene, fluoranthene, indeno(1,2,3-c,d)pyrene, phenanthrene, and pyrene. Further investigation was conducted to evaluate contaminant concentrations and characterize the soils for disposal.

The soils were characterized in 2-foot intervals on a 35-square-foot grid across the site. More than 80 borings and four groundwater monitoring wells were installed. Groundwater wasn't contaminated, so soil was the only media requiring remediation.

Because the site will be used as a park, state law requires it to be remediated to levels acceptable for residential use rather than commercial/industrial use typical for downtown properties. Soil containing contaminants above protective concentration levels acceptable for residential use was disposed of at a licensed facility. This resulted in a net deficit of soil, so clean fill and topsoil will be used to bring the site to grade during park construction.