Metro Deaf School

Location: 1125 Energy Park Drive, St. Paul, MN 55108

Nominated by: Landmark Environmental, LLC

Metro Deaf School is a free public charter school for kids from preschool to 12th grade who are primarily deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing. The students, who range in age from 2 to 21, come from the 7-county metro area, and western Wisconsin. The school uses approximately 73 thousand square feet of a 113 thousand square foot building. The majority of the building was vacant since 2014. According to the MPCA, the high levels of soil vapor contamination as well as the high costs of mitigation, contributed to this long-term vacancy.

The property was initially developed in 1951 and 1952 by GNB, Inc. for the manufacture of lead acid automobile batteries – which continued until 1986. Additionally, the former factory was part of the Koppers Coke Superfund Site, known for impacts to soil and groundwater. The building was also used for the storage of petroleum products. To add to these complications, the former factory-style building slab was unusually thick, and the footprint of the original building remained relatively unchanged over time.

Soil with lead, TCE, arsenic and diesel range organics was found on the property, as well as debris-laden soil. The PCE and TCE concentrations likely remained from the use of chlorinated solvents during GNB operations. They may also have been caused by contaminated groundwater from adjacent upgradient railroad sites – including from the Koppers Coke Superfund Site – that had migrated onto the property. Over 1,100 tons of contaminated soil was removed, and a vapor mitigation system constructed covering 81 thousand square feet of the building. Due to the extent of soil excavation and the unknown amount of contaminated soil, it was unfeasible from a cost perspective to excavate and dispose all of the contaminated soil. Therefore, a four-foot clean soil buffer was used to protect human health from residual contamination.

The once mostly vacant building is now a vibrant school. The school brings more than two hundred people to the area on a daily basis – who may also seek out local amenities – and thus drive the development potential of surrounding sites. The school’s presence may also push up surrounding property values in a residential neighborhood, historically adjacent to a heavily industrial area of St Paul. Further, the Property is less than a quarter mile from an Area of Concentrated Poverty, as defined by the Metropolitan Council. Therefore, the project contributes to the area-wide mission of improving sites in and around disinvested areas.

Project Financing

  • $102,305 – Private capital of 1House2Hands, Inc.
  • $306,800.00 – MN DEED Contamination and Cleanup Grant

Project Partners

  • 1 House 2 Hands, Inc. (Property owner)
  • Metro Deaf School (Property occupant)
  • Landmark Environmental (Environmental consultant)
  • MPCA VIC Program (Environmental regulatory oversight)
  • Cushman & Wakefield (Owner’s representative)
  • Rivera Architects Inc. (Architectural design and construction oversight)
  • RJM Construction (General contractor)
  • GR Mechanical (Plumbers for installing VMS and redevelopment)
  • Olympia Tech Electric (Electrician for installing VMS and redevelopment)
  • Veit & Company, Inc. (Excavated contaminated soil)’
  • Pace Analytical Services, Inc. (Response action analytical laboratory)
  • Legend Technical Services, Inc. (Response action Analytical laboratory)
  • EMSL Analytical, Inc. (Hazardous waste analytical laboratory)