Glatfelter Redevelopment Project


225 West Wisconsin Avenue, Neenah, Wisconsin

1. Please provide a brief overview of the project.

The Community Development Authority of the City of Neenah, Wisconsin working with Stantec Consulting Services and other community partners turned a shuttered paper mill into commercial success, reclaiming valuable waterfront and generating new property tax revenues for this city of 25,000.

Like many cities in the US Midwest, Neenah, Wisconsin (City) has a proud industrial past. The City has been a major manufacturing center throughout its history with many of the largest facilities concentrated along its waterfront on the Fox River and Little Lake Butte Des Morts. This City of 25,000 also lies adjacent to Lake Winnebago, the largest freshwater lake in Wisconsin and a lake of global environmental significance - in hosting the largest naturally reproducing population of sturgeon of any lake in the world.

In February 2006, P. H. Glatfelter Co. (Glatfelter), one of the largest employers in the City, announced the closure of its paper mill and the loss of 220 high paying primarily blue-collar jobs. The mill had operated for more than 100 years on a 7-acre site immediately adjacent to downtown Neenah. Any possible reuse of the massive and outdated industrial complex was unlikely to occur, and as a consequence, the buildings could have resulted in a significant blighting influence on the downtown and adjacent waterfront area for years. The City and the Community Development Authority (CDA) recognized the potential opportunity for redevelopment that the mill closure represented and quickly acted to acquire the property. Adjoining the mill site was a 7.65-acre former paper sludge landfill that was leased by Glatfelter from the City for use as a wastewater treatment plant. These two properties in combination with a blighted rail spur property and a fourth blighted property adjacent to the mill site, form a combined 16 acres of blighted land that was the focus for the brownfields redevelopment project that is the subject of this award nomination.

The City proactively realized that without actively pursuing redevelopment of the property, little if anything positive for City residents was likely to occur on the site. Momentum to move forward with this redevelopment project gathered force when the Plexus Corporation (Plexus), the City's largest employer and one of two Fortune 1000 companies headquartered in Neenah expressed interest in developing a new global headquarters on the property. With several successful downtown brownfield redevelopment projects having been led by the City during the prior decade (two of which resulted in the development in the downtown area of new headquarters for other multinational companies), City leaders were ready to take on the City's largest and most challenging brownfields site to date. In May 2008, the CDA proceeded with acquisition of the Glatfelter mill property with a goal of converting the property into a mixed use commercial and retail center, fully integrated with public green space including enhanced access to a revitalized urban waterfront along the Fox River and Little Lake Butte Des Morts.

The initial phases of the project are complete and are the subject of this award nomination. The first phase of the project was completed in spring 2009. This phase included clearing the land for redevelopment and the demolition of the massive mill complex (which included 26 structures) and the waste water treatment plant (which included approximately 30 additional structures). The second phase of the project was completed by June 2010 which involved the relocation of a high voltage electric line and support structures that extended along the northern portion of the project site and into Little Lake Butte Des Morts detracting from the view of the Lake from the redevelopment site and thereby hindering redevelopment.

After securing more than 30 regulatory permits, approvals and exemptions, the site was ready for the third phase, construction of the 103,000-square foot Plexus Global Headquarters building. Construction of the Plexus building, built to LEED standards, began in 2009 and was completed by June 2010. This one development alone resulted in approximately $16 million of new development, and brought more than 382 corporate jobs to the downtown area.

Phases 4 and 5 coincided with the construction of the Plexus Global Headquarters building and included the completion of Legacy Park and the Gateway East Riverwalk. The privately funded park, Legacy Park, pays tribute to the papermaking industry and is built around the preserved base of the former Glatfelter paper mill smokestack. The park contains a number of educational/informational displays that document the origin, growth, and importance of the papermaking industry to the local area (which is also the City where consumer and paper products manufacturing giant Kimberly Clark Corporation was founded in 1872 and maintained its headquarters until 1985). Gateway East Riverwalk provides green space in the heart of the downtown and public access to Little Lake Butte Des Morts and the Fox River. Phase 6 of the project was completed in 2012 and included the construction of Gateway Plaza, a public urban plaza that serves as a community gathering place and green space. The plaza will serve as a gateway to Arrowhead Park located on the northwest half of the project site.

The project phases completed to date represent only the beginning of redevelopment of this waterfront brownfield area. In the wake of successful remediation and redevelopment efforts, a cascade of additional development and site improvements that are either underway or scheduled for construction, including a healthcare facility, a data center, and a public park with green and recreation space. These additional phases include the construction of a new $7 million, LEED certified, 30,000-square foot medical clinic by Affinity Medical Group on 1.5 acres of the property which began in 2011 and is scheduled for completion in the fall 2012. Plexus has plans for a second redevelopment on the mill site; a $7 million 20,000-square foot data center (Plexus DC2) for which construction is slated to begin in Spring 2013. Both of these additional buildings will be within the footprint of the former paper mill. The property tax revenues from these initial three buildings alone will equal approximately $700,000 per year.

The transformation of the northwest corner of the site from a landfill and wastewater treatment plant into Arrowhead Park is scheduled to begin in fall 2012. Upon completion, Arrowhead Park will provide multiple outdoor recreational uses including a waterfront pedestrian/bike trail, a park pavilion, and associated lighting and park amenities. The City's vision for this site is to establish a natural refuge within an urban environment. Three primary objectives are to: restore the landscape to enhance ecological values; augment the quality of visitor experience and social interaction through trail development and destination points, and; to encourage visual and physical access to water resources. According to the park master plan, this area will include restoration of 6 acres as a native tall grass prairie, 0.75 acres as bluegrass turf, and creation of a 5 foot high forested berm accommodating 30 regionally native canopy trees. Ten-foot wide paved paths will lead from Main Street, through Gateway Plaza, across the rail corridor to the waterfront.

These development efforts would not have been possible without the inclusion of sustainable remedial strategies and creative reuse of contaminated materials on-site, resulting in a significant cost savings to the City. The project represents the highly successful collaboration of local, state and federal agencies with private businesses and an engaged community. Their combined efforts are helping Neenah reclaim its history as a vibrant waterfront community while improving quality of life and economic opportunity. As a consequence of the success of the Glatfelter Redevelopment and past projects, the City and CDA were the recipient of the WDNR's annual Natural Resources Award in 2011, recognizing them for their commitment to environmental protection and job creation through the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated properties in the heart of the community. In addition, in 2012, the U.S. EPA awarded the City and CDA two additional grants totaling $400,000 for community-wide assessment of hazardous substance and petroleum brownfields. This funding will enable the City and CDA to continue their efforts to transform other brownfield sites in the downtown, along the waterfront, and in other areas of the City to new economic, recreational, or other uses.

Company:
Stantec Consulting Services, Inc,
954 Circle Drive, Green Bay, Wisconsin

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