New construction approved for Brownfield reimbursement

Balmoral Place to open in 2013

By: Chris Jackett | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 5, 2011


BIRMINGHAM — The five-story Balmoral Place building, at the northwest corner of Woodward and Brown, will be a designated Brownfield property.

The City Commission unanimously approved the two parcels of land at 34901 and 34953 Woodward Sept. 26 to be reimbursed through tax increment financing for up to $797,167 for cleaning up the chemicals in the soil.

The reimbursement is made possible by Brownfield Act 381 of 1996, which allows for the reimbursement of certain environmentally related expenses when reuse of properties requires such a cleanup. The amended requirements for reuse of properties that are defined as “functionally obsolete” or “blighted” was applied for Birmingham developments in 2007.

“The whole point of the Brownfield is to reimburse them the cost to clean up the property,” said Community Development Director Jana Ecker, who called it a win-win.

Royal Oak-based Weiss Samona Land Development is developing the property for owners Woodward Brown Associates LLC.

The Brownfield process will use a study of total volatile organic compounds, total semi-volatile compounds and a toxicity characteristic leaching procedure to remove arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium and silver.

An initial analysis showed the site contained volatile and semi-volatile compounds, as well as metals. The depth ranged from 4 feet on the edges to 10 feet toward the center.

“It’s more of a precautionary type thing,” said Harvey Weiss, a developer with Weiss Samona. “We know there’s groundwater contamination to the north and to the south.”

The property previously housed a laundry facility with possible dry cleaning and a bowling alley that “apparently used solvents to clean the pins and balls.” Weiss said that before those businesses, there may have been a lumberyard there. The space is located south of Peabody’s Restaurant, north of Jax Kar Wash.

“Our earlier tests show some remnants of chemicals typically found in a dry cleaners,” Weiss said.

Although the cleanup process is expected to begin as soon as this week, Weiss said it would likely take 60-90 days. An additional issue could be the potential existence of an underground 500-gallon heating oil storage tank that would cost $8,000 to remove.

“One of our environmental reports shows an underground oil storage tank, but there are no records as to whether it was removed,” Weiss said. “If we encounter worse conditions, we can go back to the Brownfield Authority.”

Once the site is cleaned up, development on the 100,000-square-foot property is expected to start rolling in January with the installation of a 30-space underground parking level. There are also seven angled spaces along Woodward. The underground level will use sheet piling on the southern wall to prevent chemicals from seeping in from the car wash.

Balmoral Place is slated to have a restaurant and drive-through bank on the first floor, with office spaces on the second and third floors. The fourth and partial fifth floor will be a single, 4,000-square-foot luxury apartment, Weiss said. There will also be an ATM on the Woodward side of the building.

He said the total project cost will be “in excess of $20 million,” and occupancy is expected by mid- to late 2013.

“We’re responsible for all the normal typical construction costs,” Weiss said. Brownfield covers “anything in excess of normal construction cost.”