PRINCETON, N.J. — The Borough of Somerville, N.J., announced on October 6, 2009 that its former landfill and surrounding redevelopment area properties received Brownfield Development Area (BDA) designation by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). Municipalities receiving this designation are eligible for grants of up to $5 million each year from NJDEP's Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund (HDSRF) for investigation and remediation activities. The Borough's environmental consulting team, Geosyntec Consultants and Whitman have already received HDSRF grant commitments in excess of $2.1 million for remedial investigations on these properties. According to Colin Driver, the Borough's Director of Economic Development, remediation of the entire area could total $20 million. "What are the total costs to the Borough and NJ Transit? We don't know, we're working on it now and in fact we've got $2 million to figure out what those costs will be. You can talk about cleaning up a contaminated property and making it productive on the tax roll but you have to look a little further than that as well," Driver said, estimating that completion of the redevelopment plan would create 500 jobs and $89 million a year in consumer spending.
"The BDA designation is the direct result of countless hours of work and endless dedication by a number of people within the borough and its environmental consultants," Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher said. "The redevelopment of this brownfield area will result in direct and indirect environmental benefits for the community, including improved water quality and the creation of walking trails and green spaces in the borough. The redevelopment will also bring a number of other non-environmental benefits to the Borough and contribute to improving the quality of life for all in Somerville, while also making a significant economic impact regionally."
The redevelopment area encompasses 160 acres extending from the Somerville Railway Station to the Raritan River. The redevelopment plan envisions green space as well as commercial and residential land use, including the construction of up to 1,200 residential units, 45,000 square feet of retail space, up to 185,000 square feet of commercial and office space and more than 40 acres of green space. The development seeks to convert the former landfill area into a vibrant community resource incorporating open space and development adjacent to the Somerville's New Jersey Transit rail station, which is also undergoing major renovations.
"With this designation, the Borough is much closer to realizing their redevelopment plans because it allows not only for assessing environmental conditions at the site, but also any necessary remediation; as a BDA, this property is much more attractive to developers," said Dr. Mary deFlaun , principal of Geosyntec's Princeton, N.J., office. "With Geosyntec's track record of providing the key geotechnical expertise for successful development of landfills, including the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, we are confident that the Somerville development will be a landmark project not only for the Borough, but for the state program supporting it."
Together with its East Brunswick, NJ-based teaming partner, Whitman, Geosyntec will develop long-term strategies that optimize the potential value of brownfield properties within the Borough through the application of advanced, risk-based remediation strategies and funding scenarios that leverage public/private participation opportunities. "Our team is privileged to be selected for this contract because this keystone redevelopment project has such a high profile within the community and the state," stated Dr. deFlaun. "We look forward to making this project a model for efficiency and sustainable redevelopment practices as well as source of pride for the residents of Somerville and surrounding communities." Barry Skoultchi, Whitman's President and CEO, touched upon the complexity of the project by stating, "We realize that development on top of and adjacent to a closed landfill presents many engineering and environmental challenges that most developers do not encounter on a regular basis and we are thrilled to have the backing of the State on this undertaking."
"The successful characterization of environmental issues on the former landfill parcels and surrounding redevelopment area properties will require varied technical and regulatory skill-sets that Geosyntec-Whitman is uniquely qualified to provide," said Dr. Daniel Elliott , Geosyntec project manager. "We are excited about the value-added provided to Somerville in light of the synergies afforded by our respective strengths and cultures. We are committed to assisting Mayor Gallagher and Borough Council in the realization of Somerville's redevelopment vision for the BDA." This commitment is also reflected by Michael Sylvester, Whitman's Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, who stated, "We look forward to using our expertise in environmental remediation and Brownfield redevelopment to address the challenges at the site. We have a proven track record of working with municipalities to secure funding and working with NJDEP to secure compliance at redevelopment sites."