Del Rio Area Brownfields Planning Project

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The term “brownfields” is used to describe land that is contaminated or perceived to be contaminated by hazardous substances.
The Del Rio Area Brownfields Planning Project, is looking for input from residents on how to redevelop such areas in the South Mountain area. Rosanne Albright, Phoenix Brownfields Project Manager with the Office of Environmental Programs talks about the project.

Josè Càrdenas: "Brownfields" is a word used to describe land that is contaminated or perceived to be contaminated by hazardous substances in soil or groundwater. In December 2010, Phoenix was awarded a two-year grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfield's area-wide planning pilot program to create a plan to redevelop such sites in the city. With me to talk about Brownfield Planning Projects is Rosanne Albright, Brownfield's planning manager with the city of Phoenix office of environmental programs. Rosanne, welcome to "Horizonte."
Rosanne Albright: Thank you.

Josè Càrdenas: You've been with this program from the start, is that right?

Rosanne Albright: Yes, I have. Came on board when the program was established in 1998 to help pilot the initial program and in 2000, we became a permanent program. So I've been with the program ever since.

Josè Càrdenas: When we talk about the Phoenix Brownfield's project, the subject of your focus, three areas but the principle one is the Del Rio project, correct?

Rosanne Albright: The project is called the Del Rio Area Brownfield's Planning Project and it's about a 1200-acre area from 7th Avenue to 16th Street, from the river south to Broadway. Included in that are three sites, one which is the city Avondale landfill, one of the largest one.

Josè Càrdenas: We've put up a picture that includes the three areas you mentioned. The biggest is the Del Rio landfill?

Rosanne Albright: Yes. It's about 130 acres.
Josè Càrdenas: Both landfill and some gravel mining area as well?

Rosanne Albright: Actually, the Del Rio landfill site was just a landfill. Municipal solid waste and operated in about the '60s and '70s, closed in the mid 1980s and has been closed since then and there were a small neighborhood park in that area that was not on landfill and it's been closed and the city has tried to get it redeveloped through private partnerships that haven't worked out and we'll continue to try to get it redeveloped.

Josè Càrdenas: And the two smaller sites involve land and -- sand and gravel operations?

Rosanne Albright: Yes, the other two sites, at the southwest corner of central and the river. About a 70-acre site that's privately owned.

Josè Càrdenas: The visioning project, describe that in general and then I want to talk about specifics.

Rosanne Albright: Sure. The project -- the goal is to engage the community to develop a Brownfield plan. To develop a plan that will help to guide the cleanup and redevelopment of these sites and others we find in the area, to determine what kind of resources are out there, to help us clean up and redevelop and have the community provide input how we'll implement that plan.

Josè Càrdenas: And the process is paid for by a government grant?

Rosanne Albright: Yes, by the grant and there are some in-kind contributions from the city of Phoenix as well.

Josè Càrdenas: Are we talking about the people who live in the area that we showed on the screen within that?

Rosanne Albright: We're looking for participation from businesses and residents within the area and also the greater south mountain area because any redevelopment that happens on the site certainly can benefit the entire south mountain community.

Josè Càrdenas: When did the visioning process begin?

Rosanne Albright: We started the workshops in June and did one a month where we asked the community to come in and give us input on the types of land uses they want to see in the Del Rio area and the three sites.

Josè Càrdenas: Did you provide suggestions as to the kinds of things that might be feasible.

Rosanne Albright: Actually, we did not. We wanted the visioning process to be one that the community could really dream and explore the possibilities. We really want to hear from the community what they want it see.

Josè Càrdenas: And what did you hear?

Rosanne Albright: We learned they're looking for development that is going to be a quality development, mixed use that includes shopping, arts and culture centers, open space. And park space. And sports and recreation facilities. They're looking for a destination. For development that will attract folks from all over the valley.

Josè Càrdenas: You had a meeting on September 27th. Was that to announce this is what we heard and this is how we visualize based on the input that the members of the community provided?

Rosanne Albright: We did. We had our results meeting just last week. We unveiled the design alternative, the land use plans that the community came up with in the workshops for each of the sites and asked them to vote on preferences for those alternatives as well. So the plans will be the basis for our next phase, which gets into the details of developing the actual plan.

Josè Càrdenas: How many people actually participated in the visioning process?

Rosanne Albright: We were pleased we had about 145 people attend. Primary from within the community, the direct geographic area and the south mountain area.
Josè Càrdenas: And when you talk about the alternatives, were there two or three designs you presented to the community?

Rosanne Albright: For each site, the community came up with three alternatives for the sand and gravel sites and the three alternatives for the smaller landfill and next to the Rio Salado Audubon center and five for the city-owned Del Rio site.

Josè Càrdenas: And can you give us a thumbnail kind of scratch --

Rosanne Albright: For Del Rio, there was a tie among the three sites that primarily looked at parks and sports and recreation with some component that included entertainment or retail like restaurants. Bowling alleys and theater that would complement all of that.

Josè Càrdenas: What happens now?

Rosanne Albright: Our next step is we compile the results and put them in a report and then gather the community together again in January of next year, and we start evaluating in more detail all of these design alternatives and start to prepare the plan. So throughout this process, the community must be involved. This is the whole reason we're doing this project. We want to get the community involved in the decision making process.

Josè Càrdenas: The phase you'll go through in January and thereafters, that a discussion of what's feasible and realistic?

Rosanne Albright: Yes, part of that, one of the first things we'll do is giving folks an education how you build on a landfill, the kind of things that are feasible, the things that are more challenging and give examples of successful projects across the country and an idea how you develop Brownfield sites so they know what the restrictions might be.
Josè Càrdenas: One last question, the process itself, paid for by the pilot program grant, development -- how does it get funded?

Rosanne Albright: This is just a planning project. We'll take it as far as preparing the plan and the next steps where the funding comes from -- could come from federal resource, part of the next steps might be to apply to EPA for additional funding or could come from the city of Phoenix's own Brownfield program where we have bond funds to assist the private sector and our city departments in redeveloping these sites. We're open to those suggestions and excited to see what kind of private partners might be there as well.

Josè Càrdenas: I'm sure you'll have a lot of excitement as this becomes more concrete. Thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."

Rosanne Albright: Thank you.

Rosanne Albright:Phoenix Brownfields Project Manager, Office of Environmental Programs;

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