SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — If all goes according to plan, ground could be broken for the construction of new homes next year on a superfund site that was historically used by the U.S. military to destroy weapons.
On Monday, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency visited the waterfront property in North Suffolk, that for more than 40 years was home to the Nansemond Ordnance Depot. He was there to get an update on the progress on remediation efforts and to reaffirm that the parts of the site are safe for redevelopments.
“It’s hard to believe, but in the course of the several decades over 6,200 munitions and 200,000 pounds of munitions debris were removed,” said Administrator Andrew Wheeler, of the EPA. “The Nansemond Superfund clean-up has transformed this area of Suffolk.”
The site which sits at the northern end of College Drive and east of I-664 originally was 975 acres and used from by both the Army and Navy from 1917-1960. They used the property for munitions storage, shipment, classification, reconditioning, loading and destruction. The facility handled up to 1,300 tons of ammunition daily according to the EPA.
By 1968, approximately 300 acres of the property was handed over and some used to create the first campus of Tidewater Community College. Since moving to the new Portsmouth campus off Victory Boulevard in 2010, only a truck driving training facility and Center for Workforce Solutions building remain.
Now a new vision is taking shape.
Since the late 1980s the Army Corps of Engineers has performed more than $70 million in remediation efforts, according to an Army Corps spokesperson.
“They have to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt to the EPA that it is clean and ready to go for residential,” said Matt Baumgarten, executive director of the TCC Real Estate Foundation.
While more work needs to be completed, such as the excavation of contaminated soils, contaminated groundwater, Baumgarten is particularly excited the EPA gave the green light to land surrounding a rarely known about 16-acre freshwater lake.
“This is going to be something special,” Baumgarten said.
Sitting just yards from the saltwater-filled James River near the Monitor Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel, Baumgarten said he had already received several unsolicited proposals from developers looking to build homes surrounding the water.
“It’s gorgeous,” Baumgarten said. “People will be living on that in a couple of years and fishing kayaking on it and then they can go out in the river and go in the saltwater.”
Baumgarten envisions a “live, work, play, learn community” with townhomes, retail, breweries, entertainment, educational and recreation options.
He is working with the Suffolk Economic Development office in hopes of starting to break ground as soon as this time next year.
“This is the last piece of waterfront property left in Hampton Roads. That’s big … there is nothing this big anymore,” Baumgarten said. “A lot of things to come out of this, I mean Suffolk stands to really benefit.”
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