Suheil Totah, spokesman for railyards developer Thomas Enterprises, walks down a gravel pathway, stepping over weeds, and pointing out abandoned buildings that he hopes will one day hold new retail shops:
It’s going to take quite a bit of work, but you’re going to see these buildings transformed into beautiful jewels for the community.
Totah looks over the acres of land that make up the railyards and points to where the new downtown arena might be built.
So, the arena is just north of us, basically right back there, where those trees are, the taller trees…
He describes the massive revitalization project. An arena would be the centerpiece, surrounded by housing, shops, a canal and a grand plaza.
But Totah is standing on ground that used to be contaminated with any number of chemicals, including gas, oil, paint, lead, and asbestos.
They were left behind by the rail companies that used the railyards from the late 18 hundreds to the 1970’s.
Paul Carpenter, who is overseeing the railyard clean-up for the state, says contaminants were spread over the 240 acre site:
About half a million tons of soil has been taken off-site and the groundwater has been actively treated, pumping approximately 400 thousand gallons a day of groundwater…and the process is still on-going.
The current landowner, Union Pacific, has spent the past 20 years cleaning up about two-thirds of the site and is still working on the remaining contaminated areas. State officials estimate the clean-up will take several more years.
But Suheil Totah says Thomas Enterprises would like to buy the land from Union Pacific and accelerate the clean up process.
We’ve been working on this for five years and we have overcome every obstacle that’s been thrown at us.
He says even if voters don’t approve the new arena, Thomas Enterprises will still want to buy the site, clean it up and build there.