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Asbestos cleanup set to begin at former Citadel Plaza development site

Updated: 2014-01-21T06:09:56Z

By LYNN HORSLEY

The Kansas City Star

The long-awaited cleanup of the failed Citadel Plaza development site near 63rd Street and Prospect Avenue is finally set to begin, at least in a small way.

Kansas City officials said test pit activity will begin Wednesday and continue for two to three weeks. It will take place on four to six lots out of the 68 vacant lots identified for possible buried asbestos. If contamination is found, it will be properly disposed of, they said.

Results of those tests will set the stage for a full environmental cleanup on the site later this year, said Andrew Bracker, the city’s brownfields coordinator. A brownfield is an area contaminated by industrial or commercial use.

“It is the start,” Bracker said of the process to address any buried asbestos at the former development site –– encompassing seven blocks –– so the city can try to market the location for another developer.

Citadel Plaza was envisioned as an $80 million, 35-acre shopping center with a grocery store, restaurants, other retailers and housing. But the developer, CDC-KC, failed to properly monitor asbestos removal before some homes were torn down in 2006, and the project collapsed in a mess of environmental and financial conflicts.

In November 2011, the Kansas City Council approved a $15 million settlement to resolve lawsuits involving the development’s creditors. That settlement, made final in January 2012, gave the city clear title to the land and freed the site for development.

But first the city has to make sure there is no more asbestos contamination, and that process has taken much longer than expected.

Consultants have taken samples from 154 properties and found only one parcel with detectible asbestos fibers in the soil surface. Subsoil contamination has been harder to determine.

Bracker said considerable research on more than 200 lots ruled out contamination on all but 68 vacant lots. The city had hoped to issue a cleanup contract in 2013, but that level of continuing uncertainty about the 68 lots could lead to expensive bids, Bracker said. So the city decided to proceed more slowly and do the test pits. Even getting that contract in place took longer than expected.

“We have not met our expectations with respect to the pace” of cleanup, Bracker acknowledged.

The city has a $500,000 federal grant for cleanup and some bond funds available, but Bracker said the city wants to conserve as much money as possible for work needed before development begins.

The test pits are in the 6100 blocks of Park Avenue and Olive Street. Bracker said the contractor will monitor air quality before and during the activity and will take necessary precautions to make sure no asbestos escapes into the air. Nearby residents will not be at risk and will have access to their homes.

Bracker said it should take 45 days to get and interpret the test pit results, and that will pave the way for a more complete cleanup, which he hopes can occur by this summer.

The city also commissioned a market study about potential development opportunities for the site, but the report released in May 2013 wasn’t overly encouraging. It saw no potential for a convenience/neighborhood-oriented shopping center, noting there are other struggling shopping complexes nearby.

The consultant’s report recommended trying to attract four or five regional traffic generators such as a Menards, Ross Dress for Less, Target and Michaels. City officials have said they intend to market the site aggressively, but that won’t until the cleanup is complete.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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