ALPENA – If the proposed Fairfield Inn and Suites is to be built on the Thunder Bay River in downtown Alpena, the use of taxpayer dollars will be required to help defray environmental cleanup costs.
At its Monday meeting, Alpena City Council voted to approve a brownfield plan to help defray the cost of pollution that must be addressed before any construction can begin.
The council also voted to apply for a grant and loan from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy that will help the project move forward and help pay for infrastructure improvements along the river.
The grant, which was pre-approved, is $615,000 and the EGLE Brownfield loan is $450,000 and will help finance part of the environmental activities.
The Brownfield Plan includes eligible environmental and non-environmental activities totaling $4,161,600 plus interest. Eligible activities include waterfront park and trail improvements, as well as water and sewer improvements that directly benefit the waterfront property.
The proposed five- or six-story hotel, if built, would have about 70 rooms and include all the amenities guests expect, said Mac McClelland, a consultant for the Brownfield Authority. However, he said, the environmental challenges are serious enough that if financial assistance is not received, the project is unlikely to move forward.
“It’s a pretty exciting opportunity, but there are extensive environmental conditions that have created extraordinary costs, but that’s what the Brownfield plans are designed to handle,” he said. “Without help, support and incentives, the project really cannot move forward.”
Over the past century, the property in question has been used as an auto repair shop, used for coal storage and other purposes. Preliminary environmental studies have found an old underground storage tank and a large gasoline burner, to accompany tons of contaminated soil that will need to be removed and shipped to Detroit for treatment.
The survey identified the presence of lead, volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds in the soils above EGLE’s generic cleaning criteria.
The property is owned by Target Alpena, which has entered into a purchase agreement with Pranvay, Inc., a hotel developer.
McClelland said if the Brownfield plan is approved and the additional state funding and loan granted, some of the environmental work could begin in the fall.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.