Soil report latest hitch to Batavia's One Washington Place

Lead contamination found under downtown project site

Further complicating the One Washington Place project, lead contamination has been found under this city-owned parking deck on North River Street in downtown Batavia. The deck is to be demolished to help make way for a $50 million mixed-use development.[]

BATAVIA – Soil under the One Washington Place site in Batavia is contaminated with lead. The revelation may not be a deal-breaker for the massive downtown redevelopment project, but it creates an expensive complication.

Batavia Public Works Director Gary Holm said soil borings have discovered that lead concentrations exceeding acceptable limits are present on the north side of the site along State Street, under the existing city parking garage and up the hill to the east.

A report from Oak Brook-based Huff & Huff, an environmental engineering firm, dated May 14, shows that about 10,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil will need to be removed from the site if the project is to move forward.

“We know it’s a significant issue,” Holm said.

City Administrator Laura Newman announced the findings to city aldermen at a committee meeting May 15.

Geneva-based Shodeen Construction President Dave Patzelt told aldermen that the news does not necessarily sink the project.

“We’ve done brownfields before,” Patzelt said. “There are several ways to solve the problem.”

However, Patzelt said Shodeen will not be willing to shoulder any of the cost associated with environmental remediation of the site.

“There’s no room in the budget,” Patzelt said.

The cost of removing the contaminated soil is uncertain, but could well approach $1 million. Newman cited a clause in the city’s agreement with Shodeen calling for the two parties to discuss any unanticipated costs exceeding $350,000.

Even as aldermen and Patzelt contemplated a new problem to overcome, they resolved another issue that had been festering for months.

It was agreed that the two-level parking garage will be heated and fitted with doors and windows, with Shodeen responsible for all the costs, including construction and ongoing maintenance, repair and utilities.

Shodeen wants the garage to be heated because exposed water and sewer lines serving the apartment units will run along the ceiling of the upper level of the parking deck.

The city staff was opposed to heating the garage, contending that to do so would be unnecessary while creating never-ending maintenance problems with the doors and windows along with the heating costs.

However, the staff was willing to accede to Shodeen’s demand for a heated garage if the developer agreed to pay for all the associated costs.

The committee approved the deal, along with the zoning overlay for the entire project, on a 7-6 vote. Aldermen are expected to vote again on the deal at the May 21 Batavia City Council meeting.

One Washington Place is a $50 million public-private partnership between the city and Shodeen to redevelop most of a downtown city block.

Plans call for a six-level building on the sloping site, with 190 apartments, 376 parking spaces and 5,725 square feet of commercial space at ground level on North River Street.

Last year, the plan nearly fell apart when construction bids came in $6 million to $8 million higher than expected, because Shodeen had underestimated the cost of building the parking garage. The development agreement had to be renegotiated, with the city increasing its commitment to $16 million, up $2 million from the previous one.

The renegotiated deal also eliminated commercial space along the East Wilson Street frontage, which reduced aldermanic support for the project, as reflected in the May 15 vote.

When the project is complete, the city will own and operate the parking garage, for which it is issuing bonds to be repaid from tax-increment financing district revenues.