With the objective of creating jobs and increasing tax revenues, the Springfield Redevelopment Authority (SRA) took title to the largest undeveloped piece of land in the city, an 85-acre parcel owned by Smith & Wesson adjacent to I-291 in the East Springfield neighborhood. Though highly visible and largely flat, the site’s development potential was severely constrained by the presence of fourteen separate wetlands areas, significant peat deposits, and three large areas of soil and groundwater contamination.
VHB was engaged by the SRA to review previous technical reports related to wetlands and site contamination and to develop a master plan for the site that would maximize its development potential while minimizing adverse environmental impacts. VHB prepared three master plan alternatives—including a general office concept, a “flex-tech” concept, and a hybrid of the two—and presented them to state agencies, city agencies, and the neighborhood. The third concept (the hybrid) was selected as the “preferred alternative” to be advanced to the permitting process.
To ensure that the redevelopment of the site complied with the City’s objectives (as expressed in the master plan), the City commenced preparation of an urban renewal plan for the site to help equalize the site in the regional real estate market, to institute redevelopment controls beyond those existing in local zoning, and to encourage public involvement beyond that normally required. Preparation of an urban renewal plan, however, normally requires the preparation of an Expanded Environmental Notification Form (ENF) under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) regulations, a potentially time-consuming process.
In response to this challenge, VHB prepared a comprehensive ENF for the project, including a Phase I Waiver Request, allowing for site remediation and preparation of the urban renewal plan to move forward independently of the review of the impacts of the “built” project.