Wednesday, December 26, 2007

That place is a dump...

As Columbus continues to grow and expand, companies like Time Warner Mid Ohio and others continue to reap the benefits of over-crowding by utilizing brownfield conversions. In addition to their local brownfield development in Central Ohio, I will also present to you some of the top brownfield developments on the web today.

Brownfield redevelopment gives communal piece of mind by reducing the constant strain placed on undeveloped land by refurbishing toxic acres of soil tainted by modern (and not so modern) industry. Unfortunately, if a portion of land is certified by the EPA as brownfield it is often left neglected, courted only by those preparing to degrade the land even further (i.e. waste management services and junkyards.

For almost 35 years the Time Warner Columbus location sat unused, a victim of landfill waste. The site is now safely clayed and capped, and Time Warner is enjoying their new digs.

In addition to helping the community, Time Warner's tenancy and redevelopment efforts --a joint venture of TW, the Daimler Group and Pandey Environmental, LLC-- this redevelopment has numerous benefits for both TW and the city of Columbus, as well as the surrounding neighbors. On the TW side, they'll receive absurd tax breaks for using the land: a whopping 75 percent property-tax abatement and a 65 percent job-creation tax credit. These figures are expected to save Time Warner Mid Ohio $4.9 million over 10 years.

As for the surrounding area, the city of Columbus chipped in $4.2 million for infrastructure work, concentrating on roadways and bike paths. Almost $800k went to the site, alone.

The clean-up has sparked widespread interest in the area, leading to the development and design of a AAA baseball stadium, as well as various other projects. And although the TW did not attempt LEED Certification, there is always the possibility of LEED EB down the road (considering it's pretty obvious their SS Credit 3 is nailed down). They did, however, cover some green basics by using recycled steel, utilize natural lighting, provide a workout center/quiet rooms/catered cafeteria, as well as a "smart" energy management system to control lighting and HVAC - all steps in the right direction.

While I do have a small amount of biased pride in my community --given their history of blah developments, including but not limited to the one-mall-per-year-projects-- I will happily bow down to those that are continuing to influence and inspire. Our brownfield development pales in comparison to following ten projects, and I can only hope that more people decide to develop instead of demolish:

The Heifer International headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas - a four phase master plan on a brownfield site. The location weaves wetlands with the people, expanding environmental stewardship into the public sphere while exemplifying their work in the international community.
The Olympic Sculpture Park - a nine-acre industrial site transformed into an open and vibrant green space for art. Seattle residents and visitors are given the opportunity to experience a variety of sculpture in an outdoor setting, while enjoying the incredible views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. See the Flickr pool HERE.

Not a Cornfield - a 32 acre living sculpture in Los Angeles on what used to be a railroad depot. 1,500 truck loads of earth were introduced to the existing rocky ground in order to create a fertile base in which to plant flora. The exhibit was sponsored by the Annenberg Foundation. Initially, a cycle of corn was grown in the space but the area has now been turned over to the California Dept of Parks and Recreation where it continues to sprout marigolds, daffodils, sage, and sunflowers, as well as other native plants. Check out the Flickr pool here.

The City of Edinburgh Council headquarters in Scotland - a 200 000 square foot administrative headquarters on the site of a former car park. Housing up to 1800 Council staff, the landmark building demonstrates environmental excellence with locally sustainable stone and timber, grass roofs, waterless toilets, an open plan office design and an innovative ventilation system which stabilizes the building's internal temperature by venting the structure at night, thus allowing the exposed beams to cool.

The Solway Settling Basins - a once thriving inland salt marsh of over 1,000 acres that were compromised with industrial waste, mostly the mineral calcium chloride, a byproduct of soda-ash production by earlier industrial operations. Instead of fencing off the area, capping it with clay and plastic, and keeping out the general public, a partnership of engineers, scientists, and new corporate owners restored the ecosystem and turned the site into something beneficial.

Gallions Park - London's first zero carbon development. On this three-acre brownfield site, residential units will be built with electricity generated on site by a heat and power plant that will use bio-mass, such as wood, for its fuel so that the site will produce zero net carbon emissions over the course of a year.

Erie Street Plaza - Milwaukee's new garden park. With runoff and sewer overflow acting as major challenges for the Great Lakes city, this brownfield site will keep stormwater on-site. Native plantings and illuminated fiberglass benches are scattered among a grove of bamboo trees, using moisture generated by underground concrete steam pits that will help keep the bamboo green in Milwaukee’s climate.

Ever Vail - a $1 billion 38 acre LEED ND-certified (largest in the US) multi-use resort development project located on a brownfield site at the base of Vail Mountain . There's quite a bit going on in the one million square feet of mixed-use space: residences, a hotel, offices, retail shops and restaurants, mountain operations facilities, public parking garage, a new gondola and related skier portal AND a public park.

SeQuential Biofuels, Eugene Oregon -a sustainable (believe it or not) gas station. The station itself is covered in 244 solar panels, employs a 4800 plant green roof, uses natural cooling, filters contaminants from stormwater before rerelease into the environment uses limited building materials exclusive to the Pacific Northwest and, yes, sits on a former EPA brownfield. The convenience store inside even offers a different faire with all natural chips and snacks, locally brewed beer, organic milk, compostable cups and even recycled/able bathroom toiletries. Oh, and it also offers has more blends than a scotch distillery.

The Brokton, Massachusets Brightfield - Just south of Boston, this small city went online two months ago with the largest solar installation in all of New England. Brockton grew up as an industrial town and as a result, the few remaining acres of land they left undeveloped were designated EPA brownfield sites. Instead of taking the traditional route and further degrading the sites, Brockton decided to clean up their reputation as an industrial wasteland. Even the solar paneling was produced locally.