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Demolition of Northville Downs begins, state awards $1M grant to remove contaminated soil

Posted By: The Detroit News on May 24, 2024.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

Demolition of the Northville Downs, which hosted its last harness horse race in February, has begun and is expected to last until July, according to real estate developer Hunter Pasteur.

The now-defunct Downs, Michigan’s last harness horse racing track, is being redeveloped into a $300 million project that includes 443 new housing units, public parkland, and commercial space.

The project was awarded a $1 million Brownfield Redevelopment Grant from the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy last week. The city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority applied for the grant to pay for the investigation, removal and disposal of contaminated soil, according to a news release from EGLE.

The development that will replace Northville Downs will include three parks: a 1.5-acre Central Park; a 1.25-acre Gateway Park; and a 10.44-acre River Park that will connect to the Hines Park Trailhead and be turned over to the city when complete. The project involves “daylighting” a 0.25-mile-long section of the River Rouge that has been buried since the 1960s.

“The fill material used to bury the culvert is contaminated with metals and other chemicals,” EGLE said in the news release. “Contaminated soil will be removed, and a new riverbed will be cut through the area. The former track, barns, parking lot, and culvert will be demolished.”

Daylighting the river will have several benefits ranging from stormwater detention to capturing the 100-year floodplain and plant and habitat restoration, Hunter Pasteur Chief Operating Officer Seth Herkowitz said.

“Creation of the river park will create an interconnected river walk extending from Ford Field to the Hines Park trail system,” Herkowitz said. “EGLE’s commitment to the river park is an excellent example of how public agencies can support private development for the betterment of the community, the region, and the State of Michigan.”

With demolition and abatement underway, earthwork and infrastructure improvements will begin along Cady Street by the end of May, Herkowitz said. Vertical construction on the northern and southern portions of the site is expected to begin this fall and construction is scheduled to finish in 2026.

One local nonprofit, Let’s Open Northville, has raised concerns about fugitive dust spreading from the demolition site. Joseph Corriveau, an attorney with an office on Main Street, said dust from the recent demolition activity has floated up to Main Street.

“This dust situation has gone unmitigated by the developer and unchecked and unenforced by City of Northville administration,” Corriveau said. “While many complaints and pleas to the city manager and council have been submitted, the City of Northville is turning a blind eye to this health hazard which can have dire consequences.”

Corriveau is a founding member of Let’s Open Northville, which was originally founded to open Main and Center streets to vehicular traffic after they were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has since expanded its scope to call for transparency in all city activities, including the local government’s involvement in The Downs development, according to a news release sent earlier this week.

The city temporarily stopped construction earlier this week to install a backflow preventer on a fire hydrant used to water down the site, one of many strategies used to mitigate dust. Hunter Pasteur also uses windscreens on fencing surrounding the site, two water trucks and supporting hoses, on-site personnel monitoring, and an on-site air monitoring system to control dust. The developer says all land development and construction activities are in compliance with city, county and state permitting regulations.

“The city has third-party daily onsite inspections in addition to on-site county soil erosion inspections.  No violations or citations for improper dust control have been levied,” the company said. “In addition to dust control, our Development team and subcontractor partners have implemented strategies to address the following: pest control, noise control, traffic control, environmental control, site aesthetics, and site safety.”

The Northville Brownfield Redevelopment Authority has approved tax increment financing for the redevelopment, allowing the expected increase in property tax revenue on the completed project to go to the developer until its costs are recouped. The city will also support a tax abatement for the mixed-use portions of the project.

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