Springfield's Union Station wins national environmental award for brownfield redevelopment
December 11, 2017 : The Republican, by Jim Kinney
SPRINGFIELD -- The Phoenix Awards Institute has recognized Springfield Union Station as the best example of brownfield redevelopment in the country for 2017.
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, the driving force behind the station's $95-million rehabilitation into a modern intermodal transportation hub, gathered Monday with city officials to celebrate the award.
The Phoenix Awards were announced at the 2017 National Brownfields Training Conference in Pittsburgh earlier this month.
"Thank you to the Environmental Protection Agency, MassDevelopment and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission for their work in securing this impressive award for Springfield Union Station," Neal said. "The opening of Union Station earlier this year was the culmination of decades of hard work. I am thrilled to see this very special project receiving such prestigious national accolades and am proud to be part of its success story."
Neal said urban redevelopment projects often falter because of environmental contamination and the fact that the original polluter no longer exists and is not able to pay for a cleanup.
Environmental work at Union Station cost more than $2.7 million and was paid for by a mixture of state money from the MassWorks infrastructure program administered by MassDevelopment and from the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection.
EPA Region 1 Acting Administrator Deb Szaro and MassDevelopment CEO and President Lauren Liss both spoke at Monday's news conference.
The award highlighted the cleanup phase of construction at Union Station and the demolition and removal of a massive but hard-to-reuse baggage warehouse and the former site of the Hotel Charles, which burned in 1988 but wasn't demolished until 1997.
Nancy E. Milkey, senior project manager for Tighe & Bond in Westfield, worked with the Springfield Redevelopment Authority, owner of the station, on the environmental assessment and cleanup. The main issues were large oil storage tanks in both the station and at the site of the old Hotel Charles.
"There was asbestos in the building material. There was lead paint, but you expect to find that in an old building," she said.
The SRA also removed environmental hazards from along the railroad tracks.
The property had petroleum, metals, and asbestos contamination. Union Station also addressed air quality and congestion mitigation by encouraging the use of mass transit.
Union Station was built in 1926 and was once the center of Springfield's transportation and commerce. But the building fell into disuse as rail travel became less popular.
The station reopened in June.
Now, the building is home to office tenants, Peter Pan Bus Lines, Greyhound, Amtrak and will offer CTrail service to Hartford and New Haven starting in the spring.