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Developer Hopes Community Meetings Can Ease Concerns Over Old Bannister Site

Elle Moxley
CenterPoint project partners took questions about the Bannister Federal Complex at a community meeting Wednesday night. The private developer is studying what it will take to clean up the old hazardous waste site and rebuild it for future use.

A private developer interested in the old Bannister Federal Complex fielded questions Wednesday night from south Kansas City residents concerned about environmental remediation efforts.

CenterPoint Properties is in the middle of an 18-month study to identify possible future uses of the site, which operated as manufacturing plant in World War II before housing the General Services Administration starting in the 1960s.

Attorney Kevin Breslin says when CenterPoint takes on industrial properties for redevelopment, community members always want to know what the current conditions are and what will be done in the future.

“I think they’re really concerned about public health,” Breslin says, “making sure whatever comes of this is protective of the public health of the community.”

Cleanup of the site, which includes a landfill, two hazardous waste lagoons and an underground tank farm, has been ongoing since the 1980s.

Rich Nussbaum, with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Hazardous Waste Program, says when CenterPoint came aboard three years ago, the Bannister Federal Complex was close to ending up on the National Priorities List.

“Superfund” designation would have made the property an unlikely candidate for redevelopment.

Now, Nussbaum says, the goal is to transfer the federal government’s permits for the Bannister Federal Complex to CenterPoint by late 2016. DNR will still oversee cleanup in what Nussbaum describes as “watchdog” role, but it will be CenterPoint’s responsibility.

Chuck Loomis is president of the nearby Linden Hills Home Association. He also is director of the Trailside Center, where Wednesday’s meeting took place and home to many south Kansas City neighborhood organizations.

“I think the extent of the contamination is foremost on their minds,” Loomis says, though he adds he doesn’t feel it’s translated to many residential vacancies in his neighborhood.

Eighty-nine percent of south Kansas City residents who responded to a survey CenterPoint sent out were “somewhat concerned” or “very concerned” about existing environmental contamination.

But Loomis, who served on a Community Advisory Panel at the Bannister Federal Complex for several years, says he’s been satisfied by the answers he’s gotten from state and CenterPoint officials involved with the project.

“I think everybody has a sincere desire to do something good with the property,” he says.

Still, progress could be slow. Even after the hazardous waste permits currently held by the U.S. Department of Energy and the General Services Administration are transferred to CenterPoint, drafting demolition plans could take another two years.

That’s why Breslin says CenterPoint will continue to hold community meetings.

“We try to take the surprise out of it, be transparent and make sure people understand who we are, what we’re doing and who we’re working with,” he says.

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