Northeast Times

Pathan Chemical site redevelopment set to begin soon

Four­teen eco-friendly homes planned for pol­luted lot in Fishtown.

  • The lot at 427-447 Moyer St. has been vacant and contaminated for more than a decade. BRIAN RADEMAEKERS / STAR PHOTO

  • Construction for the planned homes, developed by Postgreen, is set to begin as soon as two buyers are secured. COURTESY OF CRAIG HERR

By Bri­an Rademaekers

For Star

Res­id­ents liv­ing around the former Path­an Chem­ic­al site on Moy­er Street in Fishtown may be about to trade a dec­ades-long nuis­ance for a much short­er-lived head­ache – that of con­struc­tion vehicles.

Neigh­bors got an up­date last week on the latest de­vel­op­ments at the site, an ir­reg­u­lar plot of land sit­ting between Moy­er and Thompson streets about a block west of the Fishtown Re­cre­ation Cen­ter. 

After years of stop-and-start ef­forts to clean up the of­fi­cially des­ig­nated fed­er­al Su­per­fund site and bring in de­vel­op­ment, it ap­pears plans to break ground on a new res­id­en­tial de­vel­op­ment are at hand.

Cur­rently owned by the New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion, the 427-447 Moy­er St. lot was formerly home to a shuttered chem­ic­al com­pany that caught fire in the 1990s after ex­per­i­en­cing years of break-ins and van­dal­ism. 

Since then, neigh­bors have been frus­trated by ef­forts to get the site cleaned up and bring in new de­vel­op­ment.

Res­id­ents have heard about the pro­posed homes, dubbed “Awe­somet­own” by the de­veloper, Post­green, for years. 

But cleanup ef­forts that took place in 2007 and 2008 failed to bring the prop­erty in line with statewide safety stand­ards, and the pro­ject stalled. In 2011, NK­CDC brought a new com­pany, RT En­vir­on­ment­al Ser­vices, on board to fur­ther over­see cleanup.

Rep­res­ent­at­ives from RT, NK­CDC and Post­green gathered with res­id­ents at the Fishtown Rec on Wed­nes­day, March 5, to provide an up­date that laid out plans to fur­ther ad­dress is­sues with con­tam­in­a­tion at the site and fi­nally get homes built. 

The primary prob­lem at the Moy­er Street lot stems from chem­ic­als clas­si­fied as “volat­ile or­gan­ic com­pounds.” 

While VOCs come from a num­ber of sources, RT Pres­id­ent Gary Brown said the chem­ic­als in the soil on Moy­er Street are byproducts of the tex­tile in­dustry. 

His com­pany formed a cleanup and con­tain­ment plan that blocks po­ten­tially harm­ful gases from en­ter­ing the planned homes — and al­lows NK­CDC and Post­green to ob­tain fin­an­cing needed to get Awe­somet­own off the ground.  

“If we have va­pors in the ground, we don’t want them to build up,” Brown ex­plained to the crowd at last Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing. 

The pro­posed va­por bar­ri­er, he said, is es­sen­tially a plastic shield that will sit between the soil and the found­a­tion of the homes. 

In ad­di­tion, a vent­il­a­tion sys­tem will run from the soil to the roof of the homes, with pipes al­low­ing any harm­ful gases to slowly es­cape above the roofs.

Work­ers will also be re­mov­ing more soil from the site; cleanup ef­forts in 2007 in­volved re­mov­ing between 3 and 5 feet of dirt from most places. At that time, con­tract­ors hired to clean the site and the Pennsylvania De­part­ment of En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion be­lieved re­mov­ing the soil would al­low the re­main­ing con­tam­in­ants to nat­ur­ally dis­sip­ate over time.

“Un­for­tu­nately, that didn’t hap­pen,” said Brown, adding that “hot­spots” can con­tin­ue to cause prob­lems even after most of the pol­luted soil has been re­moved. 

His com­pany has con­tin­ued test­ing the site, with the most re­cent test tak­ing place in Janu­ary.       

While there were con­cerns about dust and dirt dur­ing the 2007 round of re­medi­ation, Brown said that shouldn’t be an is­sue this time around.  

If there’s any prob­lem with dust dur­ing con­struc­tion, “it will get shut down un­til it’s re­solved,” Brown said, not­ing there should be no vis­ible emis­sions.

“The idea here is not to in­ter­fere with what you’re do­ing” in the neigh­bor­hood, Brown said. “It all needs to be done by the book. It needs to be done right. For the work­ers that will be there, they need to fol­low set prac­tices, and they will be told what’s in the soil.” 

Brown said that while res­id­ents are con­cerned about metals like lead in the soil, that’s only a minor con­cern at the Path­an site. “Metals are not the prob­lem, volat­ile or­gan­ics are the prob­lem,” he said. 

The con­cen­tra­tion of lead at the site is at 13 parts per bil­lion, he said, put­ting it on par with many empty city lots and well be­low what is found at sites along the river in Fishtown. 

The ac­cept­able con­cen­tra­tion of lead for drink­ing wa­ter is, for com­par­is­on, 5 parts per bil­lion.

Brown said they are also in con­tact with Al­ex­an­der Adaire School staff be­cause the school is right across the street from the site. 

“If we find any­thing on the site and it’s go­ing to im­pact [the school], it’s our re­spons­ib­il­ity to no­ti­fy them,” Brown told res­id­ents. “You can com­plain to make it get shut down,” Brown said. “That’s how it works.”

WHAT’S NEXT 

When fin­ished, the “Awe­somet­own” de­vel­op­ment will have 14 homes – eight fa­cing Moy­er Street, four fa­cing Thompson Street, and two along the east­ern edge of the prop­erty. 

In­cluded will be an in­teri­or court­yard with park­ing for the homes and fenced-off yards. 

Fol­low­ing the stand­ards of the com­pany’s brand, Post­green Pres­id­ent Chad Lu­de­man said the homes will boast “ex­treme en­ergy ef­fi­ciency” and su­per­i­or in­door air qual­ity and be highly ef­fi­cient in terms of wa­ter use. 

Ef­forts to make Awe­somet­own a low-im­pact de­vel­op­ment in­clude mak­ing the pave­ment for the site per­meable, which cuts back on storm­wa­ter run­off. Oth­er eco-friendly fea­tures in­clude full green roofs – soil and liv­ing plants in­stead of shingles or a wa­ter­proof sur­face – and built-in rain bar­rels that will fur­ther re­duce storm run­off from the site and give res­id­ents an off-the-grid source of wa­ter for things like wa­ter­ing plants and wash­ing cars. 

“These fea­tures al­low the site to be act­ive in the man­age­ment of storm­wa­ter,” Lu­de­man told res­id­ents. 

An­oth­er dis­tinct fea­ture of the de­vel­op­ment will be a fin­an­cing struc­ture that al­lows four of the homes to be “sub­sid­ized” by slightly high­er pri­cing for the 10 homes go­ing at mar­ket rate. 

Lu­de­man said they ex­pect the non-sub­sid­ized homes to be sold in “high $300,000s, right un­der $400,000.” 

Mar­ket­ing of the homes is set to kick off with a launch party on Wed­nes­day, March 19, at Lloyd Whis­key Bar, 529 E. Gir­ard Ave. 

Once they con­firm two pre­s­ales for the site, the bank fin­an­cing the pro­ject will kick in enough funds for the whole de­vel­op­ment, ac­cord­ing to Post­green and NK­CDC, and con­struc­tion will be­gin.

Lu­de­man ex­pects there to be strong de­mand for the Awe­somet­own homes, des­pite the prop­erty’s troubled past. “Two of the oth­er pro­jects we’re work­ing on in the city right now, one in South Philly and one in Fran­cis­ville, sold out be­fore we had framed out a single home,” Lu­de­man said. 

Kev­in Gray, real es­tate de­vel­op­ment dir­ect­or at NK­CDC, said at the meet­ing that they de­cided to start col­lect­ing names for pos­sible buy­ers for the non-mar­ket rate homes as soon as pos­sible, and they’ll be look­ing for ap­plic­ants at the March 19 mar­ket­ing kick­off. 

“The of­fi­cial ap­plic­a­tion will be avail­able once we get it prin­ted and on­line,” Gray said. 

De­tails of who will qual­i­fy for the af­ford­able homes will be re­leased once mar­ket­ing be­gins. 

This is all good news to Car­ol Phil­lips, who helped form a com­mit­tee of con­cerned Moy­er Street res­id­ents back in 2005.

“For 12 years, we’ve had to live with a Rent-a-Fence se­cured by sand­bags at this site,” said Phil­lips, a long­time res­id­ent of Moy­er Street who has had an act­ive role in push­ing for cleanup and de­vel­op­ment of the site. 

While she’s one of the toughest crit­ics of the long and of­ten haphaz­ard pro­cess that has seen the prop­erty morph from an aban­doned chem­ic­al ware­house to blighted lot to a site of fu­ture res­id­en­tial de­vel­op­ment, Phil­lips is ready to see pro­gress.

“I’m glad there’s go­ing to be more cleanup and that things are go­ing to start hap­pen­ing,” Phil­lips said. “I just wish we had been more in­formed along the way.” ••

You can reach at brademaekers@bsmphilly.com.

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