Brownfield Remediation on the Atlanta BeltLine

The Atlanta BeltLine is reclaiming space on the footprint of Atlanta’s industrial history. By its very nature, the project has required extensive assessment and remediation to prepare sites like the Eastside Trail corridor and Historic Fourth Ward Park to be the public amenities they are today. The road to remediation has been a long one and we couldn’t have completed it without important partners like the City of Atlanta’s Brownfields Program and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA defines brownfields as “a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Brownfields assessment and remediation identifies recognized environmental condition associated with the prior industrial use of the corridor, and develops strategies for remediation thus decreasing the chances of surprises during construction (though there will always be elements we can’t predict).

Laying the Foundation

The process of cleaning up these sites for future redevelopment started with a 2005 inventory commissioned by the City of Atlanta’s Office of Planning and funded by the City’s Brownfield Program. The study consisted of a preliminary environmental evaluation of the proposed Atlanta BeltLine corridor and adjacent properties, helping to identify properties suspected of having some form of contamination. This study provided the basis for the goal of 1,100 acres of brownfield remediation cited in the Atlanta BeltLine Redevelopment Plan.

Innovative Approaches to Brownfield Redevelopment

In 2010, the City of Atlanta was the recipient of one of EPA’s first Brownfield Area-Wide Planning Grants. This grant allowed the City and its partners, which included ABI, Georgia Tech, Invest Atlanta and others, to do a comprehensive analysis of potential brownfield sites across 3,200 acres extending from the Atlanta BeltLine to Fort McPherson. As part of this effort, the team worked with the communities in the area to identify potential brownfield sites and develop a list of sites that could serve as catalysts for area-wide redevelopment. Among the properties identified were the former State Farmers Market and the Allene Avenue Urban Farm Site, both of which received preliminary site assessment review as part of the grant.

Park Acquisition

After the BeltLine Redevelopment Plan was adopted, land acquisition for the Atlanta BeltLine began in earnest. As part of the due diligence for the acquisition of these properties, extensive Environmental Site Assessments and Site Investigations were conducted for each parcel to ascertain their environmental conditions. The City’s Brownfield Program conducted site assessments for some of the parcels at Historic Fourth Ward Park, Enota Park and the Allene Avenue Urban Farm site.

Historic Fourth Ward Park post-remediation. Photo: John Becker

Eastside Trail

Since its opening in October 2012, the stretch of trail from Piedmont Park to Monroe Drive sees heavy year-round use and received over 1.3 million of visitors in 2015. Remediation for the future Eastside Trail began in 2011 with the help of an $850,000 allocation from the City of Atlanta’s Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund (RLF). This loan allowed ABI to work with EPA and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to establish the sampling and remediation approach for all future Atlanta BeltLine corridors. In addition, the loan allowed ABI to quantify areas of the corridor that had residual contamination from its past industrial uses.

before, after - Plyant
The Eastside Trail was once an abandoned rail corridor full of industrial contaminants.

Westside Trail

Construction for the Westside Trail kicked-off in 2015 and is scheduled to be completed in 2017. While the trail formation becomes more visible each day, several steps had to be taken to ensure that the corridor did not have residual environmental issues prior to construction activities.

In 2011, the City of Atlanta Brownfields Program completed a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment the northern half of the corridor (from Interstate 20 to Boone Boulevard). As part of the assessment, soil samples were collected and analyzed. This allowed ABI to confirm that construction could proceed in this area.

In 2015, the balance of the Westside Trail’s corridor (from I-20 to University Avenue) was the recipient of a $140,000 loan from the City’s Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund to confirm that the corridor was safe for construction activities to begin.

Atlanta BeltLine West Side Trail construction March 8, 2016 Photos by Christopher T Martin
Work progresses on the Westside Trail with brownfield remediation complete. Photo: Christopher T. Martin

Atlanta’s Brownfield Program made an additional investment in the Westside Trail by providing a $57,500 Phase II Environmental Site Assessment and underground storage tank removal for a parcel that will serve as the trailhead for the Westside Trail. The Atlanta BeltLine continues to do work along the corridor, and with the City of Atlanta’s support, residents, community members, and visitors can expect to see the program continue to progress.

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