In 2005, the Bridgeport Regional Maritime Complex (BMRC) became a milestone brownfield success story for the State of Connecticut, The Bridgeport Port Authority and the City of Bridgeport by enabling 200 high-wage, ship building jobs on an abandoned 48-acre waterfront site located on Bridgeport Harbor and the Yellow Mill Channel. This project addresses three major concerns for the City of Bridgeport and the Bridgeport Port Authority: restoring industrial land to economic vitality; bringing new, water-dependent industries and high-paying employment opportunities into the City; and creating a home for water-dependent businesses displaced by the nearby Steelpoint Harbor, a proposed mixed-use waterfront development project.
TPA Design Group and GZA worked with the City and the Port Authority assessing the site’s redevelopment potential, identifying potential obstacles to reuse, and recommending an environmental remedial strategy. Steel mills had operated on the BRMC site since the 19th century. The most recent occupant, Carpenter Technology (CarTech), relocated its operations and demolished its local facilities in 1991. Cartech’s departure left a valuable piece of waterfront property unused, contaminated, and littered with building remains and debris. In the late 1990s, as the City pursued mixed-use development opportunities on the nearby site, the Bridgeport Port Authority identified the former Cartech site as a suitable relocation site for water-dependent businesses previously operating on Steel Point. The Port Authority acquired the site; the project received federal financial support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and state funding from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and dedicated staff from Department of Environmental Protection (DEP, now DEEP) to remediate the property and prepare it for new occupants on a priority basis.
TPA retained GZA to address the complex environmental and geotechnical challenges. TPA and GZA worked together on this coastal redevelopment project from the initial property condemnation phase in 2000 through land acquisition to permitting to Remedial Action Plan approval and through the completion of construction of the first phase of the redevelopment, Derecktor Shipyards’ boat assembly building and launching full operations in 2003.
Derecktor Shipyards, a world recognized ship builder was attracted to the property to expand and diversify its shipbuilding and repair operations. A long-term lease for a 23-acre parcel was signed in September 2000. Using the only existing building remaining on the site to allow it to begin operations, Derecktor built and launched four aluminum ferries, and started work on two 235-foot high-speed ferries for the State of Alaska. Derecktor’s operations expanded with the completion of a 45,000-square foot assembly building in 2003.
Redevelopment of the coastal site involved meeting several environmental compliance and engineering challenges. Due to the site’s long history of industrial use, subsurface contamination present including metals and petroleum-contaminated soil and groundwater, and an approximately 50,000 cubic yard release of No. 6 fuel oil.
Key geotechnical issues included the presence of unsuitable soils (i.e., unprepared fill) with expansive slag and existing foundations and other buried obstructions. The property was identified by the Bridgeport Port Authority as key to the future of the water-dependent use of Bridgeport’s waterfront. The property had been vacant for 18 years. Past efforts to redevelop the property had been hindered by concerns over environmental contamination and the ability to control project costs. The Port Authority selected to condemn the property, using environmental remedial cost estimates prepared by GZA. GZA consulted with the Port Authority and their outside legal counsel on environmental matters regarding property acquisition, site design, environmental insurance and regulatory approvals through the construction phase.
The property’s appraised value was reduced by the significant estimated cost for site remediation, resulting in a lawsuit by the former property owner which was settled to avoid prolonged litigation. GZA provided environmental site analysis, development of detailed cost estimates and expert testimony during property condemnation. GZA’s analyses and cost estimates also formed the basis for purchasing environmental insurance to help secure financing for the property redevelopment.
GZA developed a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) to manage the environmental and engineering challenges during the multiyear build-out of buildings and pavement. The RAP was designed to utilize the proposed site development features to cost-effectively achieve regulatory compliance. GZA gained the approval of the Department of Environmental Protection of the Remedial Action Plan (RAP).
Key RAP features included:
- Immobilization of the 50,000 cubic yard plume of separate phase No. 6 fuel oil through the construction of a waterfront bulkhead. The bulkhead was lined with bentonite panels placed above the low water table;
- Rendering polluted soils inaccessible to direct human contact with buildings and pavement;
- Reuse of about 18,000 cubic yards of dredge spoils to increase site grades above the minimum required flood elevations.
- Recording of Environmental Land Use Restrictions.
GZA also designed an innovative approach to foundation construction that eliminated the need for deep foundations and maximized the re-use of on-site soils. TPA and GZA’s integrated engineering efforts were essential to achieving success.
RAP recommendations (and regulatory approval for these recommendations) resulted in project savings of approximately $16 to $18 million. The project encompassed a range of site improvements, including removal of abandoned foundations; ground improvements for new buildings; waterfront bulkheads and revetment; dredging in the Yellow Mill Channel to facilitate access; pier construction to support a high-capacity mobile boat hoist; site filling to reduce flood hazard; provision of new utility services; and high-capacity pavements. remediation and paving.