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Friday, September 22, 2023

Environmental concerns continue to stall development on S. Elm Street

By Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / August 18, 2023

The Greensboro City Council approved a sales agreement extension on Tuesday night (Aug. 15) for a proposed residential and commercial space on S. Elm Street and West Gate City Boulevard, due to environmental issues on the site.

N.C. Triad Associates, LLC, composed of Cagan Management Group and the South Elm Development Group are slated to build an apartment complex, across the street from the proposed Lidl store, that was recently put on hold because of environmental concerns from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Environmental testing has been recommended on the land across the street from the apartments, which is a proposed Lidl grocery store site on the corner of East Gate City Boulevard and South Elm Street. The entire area faces the same environmental issues – residual gas vapors in the soil from a former coal gasification plant, a dry cleaner and several other industrial businesses that once sat on the property.

The apartment development includes the East Block of the South Elm Redevelopment Area of the properties at 100 East Gate City Boulevard, 725 and 727 South Elm Street, and 508 and 518 Arlington Street.

Developer Jeff Cagan addressed the council on the need to extend the closing sales date to November 30, 2023, to complete sufficient soil and vapor testing, according to N.C. DEQ guidelines.

“We want to do some retesting based on some issues we heard about across the street with Lidl. We want to make sure we didn’t miss anything concerning the environment,” said Cagan.

The block currently houses the Union Square Campus and developers are hoping to provide residential and commercial space to support the area. Developers have upgraded the building plans from 150 units to 203 units, a two-story garage under the building for tenants, 70 additional surface parking lot spaces for the Union Square Campus, and 1,000 square feet of retail space. The agreement specifies that the development will provide a minimum of 250 total parking spaces.

Additional testing will be done in the areas that will contain the retail space, a gym and leasing office.

Like the Lidl site, the N.C. DEQ requires a vapor barrier to be installed first, which developers say became an expensive undertaking. Vapor barriers (also known as vapor retarders) are materials or structures installed below a building to block the entry of vapor gases. The barriers should be durable enough and thick enough to prevent damage during placement, building construction, remodeling, or maintenance, or to resist failure due to earth movement and age. The most common application for vapor barriers is installation under new slabs during construction.

Cagan noted that a parking garage under the building helps cut costs on how big of a barrier is needed and how much testing is needed.

“This isn’t remediation, this is mitigation. You have to clean it up to lessen the issues that possible contaminants may have on people,” said Sue Schwartz, director of the City of Greensboro Planning Department. “The DEQ requirements have changed because in their experience over the last 10 years, just putting vapor barriers in has not proven effective.”

Schwartz explained that the city did complete brownfield remediation on the land to the acceptable standards set by N.C. DEQ; however, what comes next is based on the land development plans that determine what mitigation methods are further required.
“What happened across the street with Lidl has shaken us up about the environmental issue. That’s why we are spending more time and money on testing our site,” said Cagan.

The project is expected to take three years to complete once construction begins.


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