Commonwealth Dairy Wins Award for Brownfields Redevelopment
The Windham Regional Commission (WRC) and Commonwealth Dairy are proud to announce that the Commonwealth Dairy project was honored at the Phoenix Awards ceremony during Brownfields 2013 in Atlanta, GA, May 16, 2013. Created in 1997, this prestigious award honors individuals and groups working to solve critical environmental or social challenges, transforming blighted and contaminated areas into productive new uses, and sustainable development projects. The Phoenix Award winners represent outstanding Brownfield projects from each of the 10 EPA regions.
Commonwealth Dairy’s flagship $38 million, 38,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility is sited on a former auto salvage yard in rural Brattleboro, Vermont. The federal financing portion included New Markets Tax Credits and involved multiple banks, community development entities, local, state and federal financing parties and their attorneys, all of whom were primarily concerned with minimizing environmental risk. The job demanded a very quick timetable and was achieved through active collaboration among all partners. This flexibility kept the project moving forward in a manner that ensured environmental protection, addressed the needs of the numerous lending and regulatory entities, and enabled critical deadlines to be met. The upshot? Site selection to yogurt production in nine months flat, 112 jobs created, and 100+ million pounds of Vermont milk purchased annually.
“The Commonwealth Dairy story is one of a successful Brownfields redevelopment. What marked this effort was the recognition that contamination was only part of the story; indeed only one among many challenges to overcome in the process,” said Angela Timm, Commonwealth Dairy Director of Finance and Administration. “Successful redevelopment of a Brownfield only happens when many parties with various perspectives resources and responsibilities work collaboratively towards a common goal of creating value in a community,” said Susan McMahon, Associate Director of the WRC.
WRC Brownfields Steering Committee committed $83,000 in EPA-awarded funds for the Phase I and II Environmental Assessments for the project. The Phase I documents the environmental conditions (historical, visual and interviews) of a property prior to its acquisition and if needed a Phase II assessment tests the site to determine nature and extent of contamination. In this case, the actual contamination (lead and residual petroleum) was not extensive. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VTDEC) required and provided funding ($12,460) for a Soil and Materials Management Plan, which covers the management of soil and other materials generated during redevelopment of the site.
Today Brattleboro has a new industry in its midst, with new jobs for the community and an expanded tax base, through the redevelopment of an underutilized site, and mitigation of residual environmental concerns. The State of Vermont has a new buyer of milk, which ultimately helps enhance Vermont’s agricultural economy, working landscape and its historical sense of place. The goal of Brownfields was achieved, creating real worth out of something of negligible worth….and contamination was the least of the challenges.
“None of this would have been possible without close collaboration among our partners,” said Timm. “We are grateful for the support of the WRC, the Town of Brattleboro, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, the VTDEC, New England EnviroStrategies, Inc., and Downs Rachlin Martin, PLCC. This is a model of how quickly business development can happen in Vermont when everyone works together as a team.”