Mason Run, a sustainable residential redevelopment, is one of the largest New Urbanism projects constructed on an urban brownfield site in the nation and has had profound economic and social impacts on the City of Monroe. The project team, which included the City, Crosswinds Communities, SME and others, developed innovative brownfield financing strategies, creative environmental response programs, and cost-effective site preparation strategies to transform a 45-acre abandoned paper mill site into a charming, vibrant community. The project spanned nearly a decade and was conducted in six phases.

Formidable physical and financial barriers to redevelopment of what appeared to be an open field included the presence of two feet of cinder/ash wastes covering approximately 35 acres of the site, contaminated soil, and 350,000 square feet of buried industrial basements, pits, footings and foundations. Knowing that large sums of money and time would be required to prepare the entire site for redevelopment, SME worked with the City and developer to create a staged approach for needed environmental response actions, excavation and demolition of buried basements and other structures, and site preparation, timed to correspond to the availability of brownfield redevelopment incentives on which success of the redevelopment depended.

To mitigate environmental and site preparation costs, a creative funding program using multiple, leveraged brownfield financing sources was developed. SME successfully acquired and managed approximately $7.4 million in brownfield financing through federal, state, and local grants and loans and tax increment financing. The complex financing package was structured to correspond to the six remediation/construction phases of the project. Loans will be repaid from the tax increment financing revenues; when the USEPA brownfield loans are repaid, the city will have over $2.5 million to support other brownfield projects.

The coal ash wastes posed the most significant environmental challenge. Over 150,000 cubic yards of material had to be removed from the home sites and replaced with an equivalent amount of clean fill. The traditional approach of removing and disposing the waste in a landfill and replacing it with imported fill was too costly and was not considered a sustainable solution for a sustainable development. Instead, SME designed an alternate approach: swap the cinder/ash fill for clean soil from beneath roads and parks in the development and cap the fill with pavement and landscaping. This sustainable approach reduced environmental and human health risks, reduced resource use, and saved more than $2.5 million in response costs, making the project economically viable. SME’s Construction Materials Services Team tested all backfill on the project to verify compliance with project specifications.

During basement excavations, a variety of contaminated media, including more coal ash, hazardous wastes, PCB-contaminated sludge and soil, and soils contaminated with chlorinated solvents and gasoline were discovered, characterized and properly disposed. During construction, numerous constructability challenges were addressed including the removal of fill, subsurface concrete structures, former wastewater treatment facilities, pipes, utilities, contaminated soil and other debris. Careful planning was required to replace the excavated basements with clean fill where future homes would be built and with cinder/ash fill where roads and parks would lie. Additionally, demolition and remediation specifications required maximum reclamation/recycling of materials removed from the site to maximize the sustainability of site preparation activities. More than 50,000 tons of concrete, steel and other materials were recycled.

This project has won the following awards:

  • Brownfield Renewal Award, Social Impact Category – Brownfields 2009 Conference
  • Economic Development Award, Neighborhood Development Initiatives Category – International Economic Development Council (IEDC)
  • Environmental Excellence Award, Brownfield Redevelopment Category – Michigan Association of Environmental Professionals (MAEP)
  • Impact Award, Redevelopment Category – Commercial Real Estate Women-Detroit (CREW)

“Mason Run is a resounding success and a model of sustainable development. We value SME’s ability to provide solutions to challenging brownfield issues – from developing innovative brownfield financing strategies and creative environmental response programs to developing cost-effective site preparation strategies. We look forward to working together with SME on other redevelopment projects.”
C.D. “Al” Cappuccilli
Former Mayor
City of Monroe, Michigan

“Mason Run represents a continuing trend across the nation for well-conceived residential development on brownfield properties. The team's sheer determination, exhibited through the nearly 10 years necessary to bring the project to fruition, highlights that combining creativity with the tools available through state voluntary cleanup programs will yield tremendous returns on the sustainable development scale across the United States. This project, conducted in phases on a smaller site, is an excellent template for other brownfield redevelopments across the country.”
Todd Davis
CEO of Hemisphere Development
Brownfield Renewal Award Judge