“I’d say it is a huge, huge event for the state of Alabama to have a recovered site that’s actually being utilized after the fact,” said Mark Coyle, project manager for Goodwyn Mills Cawood, the architecture firm on the project. “That’s a rare thing for us.”
Anniston received a $400,000 grant to rid the property between 11th and 14th streets of the remnants of its industrial days. The property had been an industrial site for more than 100 years — its working life began around 1880 as the home of Anniston Cotton Manufacturing Co. — but has sat unused since 1994. The city obtained the property through a tax lien.
The construction bid for the DHR building was $16 million.
The city finished cleaning the property more than a year ago and DHR committed to building there, but this will be the first building in the state built on a former brownfield. That means the preparation process itself has been breaking new ground. (A “brownfield” refers to any land that had been polluted during its previous usage.)
“It has been different in the sense that obviously being a brownfield site there is a lot of concern about the material in the ground even after the remediation work that’s done,” Coyle said.
That’s one reason the Alabama Department of Environmental Management asked the team to retest the soil after the site had already been certified clean — even though the new work set construction back and caused an unexpected expense.
“The material had to be retested in a similar fashion to the way the general contractor starting new construction would handle it,” Coyle said. “In other words, if he’s going to dig a 10-foot hole, our test pit needs to be a 10-foot hole.”
The purpose of meeting of contractors, designers, representatives of the city and DHR Thursday was to hammer out details of the project construction. The construction is imminent; the specific start date is not known pending final permit approval by the city.
The procedures leading up to construction were different than in other projects in a number of ways, Coyle and his associate Jeff Little, contract administrator, said.
For instance, when the project was being prepared for bids, specifications had to include a provision that construction debris would go to a place specializing in hazardous materials until the testing was finished. That meant the original bid was about $1 million over the estimated budget. After testing was complete, the winning bid was re-estimated with the savings included.
Coyle said the procedures are not only new to the firm and the city, they are also new to ADEM and the EPA. So going through this is “validating the procedures in the state.”
“As more of these occur in the future, that process gets smoother,” Coyle said. “We and they have kind of figured it out together.”
Doug Heath, director of the Calhoun County DHR, said he’s just glad that the project is finally moving forward.
Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545.