Miami Beach is moving forward with plans to clean up four contaminated city-owned properties, including a park and a former golf course, in order to redevelop the sites.
The city is in the process of designating the properties as "brownfields," a first for Miami Beach. The designation, applied to former industrial or commercial sites with ground contamination left over from leaky fuel tanks, pesticides or other uses, qualifies the city for state reimbursement for cleanup work.
Maurice Gibb Memorial Park, where contamination left over from past use as a gas station prompted the city to fence off one section several years ago, is one of the sites. The others include two former golf courses — the Par 3 Golf Course and part of the Miami Beach Convention Center district — which have arsenic contamination from fertilizers and pesticides. The fourth site is a Miami Beach facility that serves as a maintenance building and fueling station for city vehicles, which was previously contaminated by discharge from an underground diesel storage tank.
The contaminated land doesn't currently pose a risk to residents, according to Elizabeth Wheaton, the city's environment and sustainability director, but Miami Beach wants to clean up the sites because three have been slated for new projects.
The city is in the process of remodeling Maurice Gibb Memorial Park, located at 1700 Purdy Ave., and is in the midst of construction in the Convention Center district. Miami Beach also plans to turn the former Par 3 Golf Course, at 2300 Pine Tree Dr., into a community park, which may include wetlands with aquatic plants to help naturally treat storm water, Wheaton said. There are currently no redevelopment projects planned for the fleet maintenance facility at 140 MacArthur Causeway, but Miami Beach is required to clean up the site as part of an agreement with the county.
"All four of those areas have had a history that requires remediation," said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. "We're going to be creating usable green space where there had been infected brownfields."
The cleanup work is expected to cost $3.27 million.
Under Florida law, a brownfield designation provides incentives, including a tax credit on cleanup costs and a sales tax credit on building materials for some redevelopment projects. The Environmental Protection Agency also offers brownfield grants for site assessment and cleanup.
The designation requires property owners to enter into an agreement with the county to rehabilitate the site, said Tere Florin, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade's Division of Environmental Resources Management. Once the agreement is successfully completed, she said, property owners get some liability protections.
Developers and property owners are typically reluctant to redevelop former industrial sites because of contamination concerns, so the brownfield designation provides an incentive to transform the land into something new. The idea behind the designation is to get property owners to reuse former industrial and commercial sites rather than build on virgin land, Wheaton said.
A public hearing on the brownfield designations will be held at the Miami Beach City Commission meeting on May 16. The four properties would be the first publicly owned brownfield sites on the Beach. Miami Beach owns three additional properties with known contamination, all golf courses, which aren't currently on the list because they haven't been slated for redevelopment.
Countywide, there are currently 69 former industrial or commercial sites designated as brownfields.