South KC Perspective
Bannister Federal Complex Goes to Private Developer
By John Sharp
Legislation that will allow the federal government to transfer the vacant Bannister Federal Complex to a private developer and to fund demolition and the cleanup of contamination at the site passed the U.S. Congress Friday, December 9, and was promptly signed into law by President Barack Obama.
When the 70-page bill to avoid a partial federal government shutdown passed the U.S. Senate less than an hour before midnight December 9 when government spending authority would have expired, it also contained a short provision to allow the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to reallocate previously approved funding that would allow the transfer to go forward.
No further Congressional approval will be needed, but the Secretary of Energy will be required to notify the House and Senate Appropriations Committees within 15 days of reallocating the funds.
If all goes well, demolition could begin as early as next summer, according to Kevin Breslin, an attorney and development advisor for CenterPoint Properties, the designated redeveloper of the site.
Drafted Language to Pass the Bill
While some news media have reported the legislation included $200 million to pay a private developer for the demolition and cleanup, it actually only gives the NNSA authority to reallocate appropriations within its budget which can be used to fund the project.
This is not expected to be a problem since both Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt and Democratic U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II, have been outspoken advocates for the project and both pushed for language in the funding bill to allow the project to stay on track.
Blunt apparently anticipated it might prove difficult to get specific language funding the Bannister project in the spending bill which generally allows spending to continue at current levels until April 28.
In a November 21 letter to the chair and vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee he said he could support specific language “…or I could support an allowance for NNSA to have flexibility in their accounts to make the funding available as long as we are certain the NNSA will use that flexibility for the Bannister Road Complex.”
Cleaver’s office issued a press release noting he had advocated for inclusion of language in the spending bill to facilitate the redevelopment of the Federal Complex site. The release said, “A delay could derail the sale and cost the federal government an additional $40 million or more to maintain the property. With private ownership, the land can be remediated for industrial use.”
The Senate had passed legislation approving $200 million for the transfer and the subsequent demolition and cleanup on May 12 by a vote of 90-8, but it was never approved by the House.
The spending bill including the language to allow the NNSA to reallocate funds passed the House 326-96, and passed the Senate 63-36.
Steps Toward Demolition
Breslin said it may take NNSA a few months to draft contract language for the transfer, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources will have to draft new permits regulating the cleanup, which he said he hopes can be ready for public comment by March or April.
He said he hopes to get state approvals in May, and to actually close on the transfer of ownership by August.
“The minute we close, we’ll be on the site the next day,” Breslin said.
Breslin said the first step will be to secure the facility, shutoff existing utilities and install temporary power systems.
He said the next six to eight months will be spent doing “surgical” interior demolition to remove utilities and any beryllium dust, asbestos and PCB contamination. Some smaller buildings could be demolished during that period, he said.
Before any buildings are demolished, Breslin said CenterPoint will conduct a public meeting to explain in detail how demolition will be conducted to assure the public it will be done safely without the spread of contaminants.
By spring of 2018, Breslin said, demolition of major structures should begin, which he said would take about eight months. He said this will include removal of subsurface infrastructure and utilities.
During the demolition process, Breslin said CenterPoint will install new interim groundwater extraction wells to extract solvents that have contaminated parts of the site. These will be replaced with a final system of wells after site preparation is complete.
He said CenterPoint also plans to install subsurface barriers that go down to bedrock to more effectively prevent subsurface plumes of contaminated groundwater from drifting.
He said the company also will close and replace all storm sewers at the site that have become contaminated by PCBs and will remove and safely dispose of soil containing high concentrations of PCBs.
“Now we have the opportunity to finish the job that couldn’t be done while the site was operating and the buildings were standing,” Breslin said.
Altogether, Breslin said, demolition, cleanup and site preparation will take three and a half to four years before actual redevelopment of the site can begin.
Completion May Include Retail
He has said at public meetings earlier that CenterPoint envisions constructing about 1.8 million square feet of industrial and distribution facilities on site, with the possibility of commercial and retail facilities on the southwest corner of the site by the intersection of Bannister Road and Troost outside the flood wall. The Marine Corps data center will remain on the site.
Breslin said about 750-800 union workers will be employed to do the demolition and cleanup, and the project should create about 900-1,100 permanent jobs.
Until recently the complex was used primarily for regional offices of the General Services Administration and operations of the NNSA to produce non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons. Much of the complex was originally used to manufacture aircraft engines during World War II.
CenterPoint developed the new NNSA National Security Campus at Botts Road and 150 Highway that replaced its operations at the Bannister Complex. The company is also continuing to develop an industrial park south of the Security Campus at the northern end of the former Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base. Both facilities are in KCMO.
John Sharp is a former city councilman and state legislator for the area.