Burnham demolition talks approved

Burnham demolition talks approved

CHAMPAIGN – One of the reasons the redevelopment of Burnham Hospital hasn't taken place, with negotiations with two separate developers failing after months of talks, is because the site is "an environmental brownfield," says Champaign City Manager Steve Carter.

"The hospital complex contains large amounts of asbestos, much of it friable (i.e., loose particles, some airborne, hazardous to human health)," a Dec. 16 city memo states. "The project must remove several large underground storage tanks that may have leaked petroleum into the soil.

"The buildings in the hospital complex contain lead, mercury, halon and CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons)," the memo continues. "The numerous environmental hazards make this project as much of an environmental cleanup project as it is a demolition project."

With staff's urging, the Champaign City Council on Tuesday voted 7-0 to authorize Carter to negotiate an agreement with Brandenburg Industrial Service Co. of Chicago to demolish the old hospital building and Nurses' Annex and to environmentally remediate the site.

Cleaning up the environmental hazards will eliminate uncertainty and removing the main buildings will enable future developers to begin construction work without a nine-month delay for demolition, Carter said.

"Any time you have what other people call a brownfield – environmental remediation – that raises a lot of cost questions, a lot of liability questions," said Carter.

Negotiations with The Atkins Group for a $35 million residential and commercial development at the site broke off on Nov. 19.

To save money, the demolition and cleanup work the city will attempt to negotiate will be less extensive than if The Atkins Group had decided to go through with the project.

The work will also include removal of all equipment from the Energy Center except the elevator and equipment needed for heating and air conditioning. The Energy Center itself won't be demolished. Two tunnels running underneath the hospital to ManorCare Health Services and the Energy Center will not be demolished or filled entirely, but will be only partially filled at one end of the tunnel.

The Fourth and Third street parking lots also won't be removed.

The city had negotiated a $3.4 million contract with Brandenburg for a full demolition and cleanup, so the cost of the scaled-back project should be less, the city memo stated.

Any contract reached with Brandenburg will come back to the city council for final approval.

Cleanup work could begin by early March and take five months to complete.

The city would initially pay for the project out of cash reserves, which would then be reimbursed from cash raised through the sale of bonds.

The bonds would be repaid, eventually, through the property tax increment generated by new development in the North Campustown Redevelopment Area Tax Increment Financing District, which includes the 7-acre Burnham site.

Champaign Planning Director Bruce Knight said planning staff now favors a new approach for Burnham redevelopment.

At the city council's Jan. 20 study session, the city will propose hiring a consultant to do a site plan for the Burnham site and to develop design guidelines. - The idea would be to create four to six developable parcels, with the design guidelines making sure that the separate developments have a sense of unity and coherence, he said.

Under this scenario, development at the site wouldn't begin until 2005, Knight said. Previously, the city has been negotiating with just a single developer.

You can reach Mike Monson at (217) 351-5370 or via e-mail at mmonson@news-gazette.com.

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