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Council Bluffs Brownfields Success

Council Bluffs, IA
Council Bluffs Brownfields Success-Council Bluffs, IA

Council Bluffs has demonstrated a unique ability to quickly return properties to a productive re-use.  Much of the City’s efforts have focused on the South Main Brownfields Project Area which is among the oldest and most deteriorated industrial districts in Council Bluffs.  Depressed property values, heavy truck and railroad traffic, urban noise, and odors associated with manufacturing processes stigmatized the area.  Further, residents of the economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods bore a disproportionate level of exposure to potentially harmful environmental conditions.  

Former International Harvester Building 

The City used its Brownfields Assessment Grant to help spur the revitalization of a four-story warehouse located in the historic former implement manufacturing district.  Built in 1888, the International Harvester building contains 48,000 square feet of space in the main structure and 25,000 square feet of space in a one-story addition built in 1928.  International Harvester closed the warehouse in the 1960s and the structure remained vacant and/or underutilized for the next 40 years.  Past uses of the site and surrounding parcels raised significant contamination concerns which hindered its redevelopment.  Further, a lack of proper maintenance during this time period caused the structure to become an eyesore and target for vandalism.

The City’s EPA Brownfield Assessment Grant funded the Phase I and II ESAs of the property to determine the extent and level of contamination.  It also helped leverage additional money to complete supplemental soil and vapor intrusion assessments and soil excavation.  These activities permitted the City to enroll the property into the Iowa Land Recycling Program in April 2008 and receive a No Further Action certificate in June 2009.

The City and Pottawattamie County Development Corporation (PCDC) partnered to work with Artspace Projects, Inc. to rehabilitate the former International Harvester building.  A $12 million project transformed the historic agricultural implement warehouse into a mixed-use structure designed to meet the needs of creative individuals and their families.  The building features 36 live/work housing units, 9 working artist studios, gallery spaces, an outdoor playground area, 52 enclosed parking spaces, and 9 parking spaces for guests.

The City used the Brownfields Grant to help the project leverage several outside funding sources including the following:

  1. $1,150,000-  First Mortgage Bank Financing
  2. $450,000-  Federal Home Loan Bank Financing
  3. $145,000-  City HOME Investment Partnership Funds
  4. $561,000-  Tax Increment Financing (TIF), Economic Development Initiative (EDI) Funds, and Developer Funds
  5. $2,113,597- Historic Tax Credits
  6. $2,780,883-  Private Funds (Deferred Developer Fees, Iowa West Foundation Funds, Artspace Sponsor Loan, and General Partner Equity – Fundraising)
  7. $4,799,520-  Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC)

The 1001 South 6th Street site is the “sister” building to the 1000 South Main property.  The site experienced similar disinvestment after International Harvester closed its operations in the 1960s. The EPA awarded the City an EPA Cleanup Grant for the property in October 2009 to address groundwater and soil impacted by contaminants.  The cleanup will ensure the success of the adjacent International Harvester Artspace project by removing the environmental concerns/risks associated with the site.

Community Health Clinic (900 and 924 South 6th Street) 

Council Bluffs Community Health Center (CBCHC) demolished the existing building and constructed a $5.6 million facility on the site.  CHCHC provides accessible, comprehensive, culturally competent primary health care to the entire community and embraces the opportunity to help those with limited resources and other barriers to quality health care.

Former Katelman Foundry (2nd Avenue and South 11th Street area) 

The abrupt closing of the business left numerous underused buildings scattered across seven properties totaling 3.68 acres in the midst of an established residential neighborhood.  Community Housing Investment Corporation (CHIC), a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing opportunities, purchased the properties in 2006 with the intent of constructing new homes.  However, the organization did not have the financial resources available to address several concerns relating to geotechnical and environmental assessments.  The City of Council Bluffs was able to use a Brownfield Assessment Grant to facilitate site redevelopment.

Bunge Properties (3000, 3100 and 3300 1st Avenue and 3218 and 3328 2nd Avenue) 

Acquisition of the Bunge properties will eliminate an incongruent land use and advance an ongoing effort to enhance the West Broadway Corridor.  The City has committed to demolishing the existing structures and removing portions of the adjacent railroad that intersect city streets.  Further, Union Pacific Railroad will remove its tracks along the elevators as part of the agreement.  Collectively, this will allow for the construction of several infrastructure projects including 1st Avenue from 11thto 36th Streets, a recreational trail, and a dedicated mass transit lane.  The referenced improvements will increase pedestrian safety for two areas schools, provide access to the brownfield site making redevelopment feasible, restore street connectivity, and encourage the use of alternative forms of transportation.  Potential re-use plans for the former Bunge Properties site include future residential infill development.

A Phase I ESA completed under its Hazardous Substances Assessment Grant allowed the City to satisfy due diligence requirements and purchase the vacant former grain elevator company.  The Bunge properties consist of seven parcels totaling approximately 8.13-acres.

The City conducted Phase I and Phase II ESAs on the site prior to acquisition in June 2010.  The EPA awarded the City of Council Bluffs a $200,000 Hazardous Substances Cleanup Grant in 2011 to mitigate exposure risks associated with the contaminated soils.  The City will redevelop the site into greenspace/public garden and connect it to the existing community trail system upon site remediation.  City officials envision the project as an opportunity to help stabilize the neighborhood and serve as a future anchor for its revitalization.

Katelman Foundry was one of the oldest continually-operating businesses in the community when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005.  The business initially manufactured farm implement products but later converted to producing casings for hand grenades and other essential war items during World War II.  The company closed its foundry in the early 1970s and focused its efforts solely on fabricating structural, reinforcing, and other miscellaneous steel until its closure.

The City utilized the Brownfields Assessment Grants to help the project leverage $4.9 million in federal funding including a $1.1 million competitive grant awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The City completed assessment activities on the two adjoining properties located southwest of downtown and within the historic former implement manufacturing district.  The 0.93-acre site consisted of a vacant lot and an underutilized commercial structure.  Phase I and Phase II ESAs eliminated potential contamination concerns, allowed the purchaser satisfy due diligence requirements, and ultimately cleared the property for redevelopment.

City officials envision the 1001 South 6th Street property will redevelop with uses complimentary to the adjoining mixed-use development.  The City and PCDC will continue to identify and pursue developers with a vision for the site.

1001 South 6th Street 

The Brownfields Assessment Grant helped the City to leverage a $2 million Iowa West Foundation grant and a $500,000 grant from the Southwest Iowa Foundation to complete the referenced work.

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