Birch Lake Business Center
Location: 1201 N. Birch Lake Blvd, White Bear Township
Nominated by: White Bear Township EDA
2013 Small City Impact Award Winner
The 9-acre site was operated as a hog farm prior to 1957, which then evolved into a household refuse collection business, with refuse burned on site. In 1960, Lake Sanitation, Inc. operated the property as a refuse collection service, delivering refuse to local permitted landfills. Beginning in 1984, the site turned into a yard waste composting facility and household waste recycling transfer station. Materials collected for recycling consisted of paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, scrap iron, used oil, car batteries, and household hazardous waste. The site was acquired by the White Bear Township EDA in 2005 when the sale and redevelopment of the site proved difficult due to the widespread contamination, related uncertainties, and remediation costs. The buildings were vacant and in extreme disrepair, and piles of miscellaneous debris and materials were scattered throughout the property. The property was vacant until redevelopment in 2011-12.
The property was listed on the MPCA Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup, Petroleum Brownfields Program, underground storage tank and List of Spills databases. Two major areas were identified as potential environmental concerns due to surface and subsurface contaminated soil and intermixed debris consisting of wood, concrete, metal, brick and glass intermixed with household refuse and ash. The soil was contaminated with polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), metals, and diesel range organics (DRO). The thickness of the contaminated soil ranged from 1 to 14 feet in depth with a total quantity of soil and intermixed debris of approximately 15,000 cubic yards. In addition to the extensive contamination issues, the project was complicated by extremely tight remediation deadlines in order to meet the company’s need to complete construction by May 2012, which corresponded to the expiration date to Tecweigh’s existing property lease.
Prior to cleanup and redevelopment, the property was blighted and underutilized for many years. The completed Tecweigh development included construction of an approximate 35,000 square foot single story industrial building with associated parking, drive and green space areas. The project has resulted in 31.5 permanent full time equivalent employees. A creative use of tools in the 2011-12 Minnesota Jobs Bill provided Tax Increment Financing. The project also increased the community tax base, and through removal of blight, is anticipated to trigger additional nearby redevelopment.