Those driving by the former Drexel Heritage plant, located on the corner of Carson and Blue Ridge streets in Marion, will notice that the area doesn’t look like a warzone anymore.

Contractor D.H. Griffin began Phase I of the project to cleanup piles of debris on the property in March of 2019 and finished in August, but the journey to revitalize the former industrial site began long before that, according to a news release.

In 2014, the then-owner of the site, Marion Property LLC, operated by Fred Godley of Cornelius, tore down parts of the old furniture plant. Godley later asked the city and county to take over ownership of the property, because he could not finish the demolition on the 15-acre site.

After securing grants for the project, both entities accepted the donation of land from Godley and began formulating plans for the first phase of the cleanup.

“This part of the Drexel Heritage cleanup is considered a phase II environmental cleanup, because of the debris that was comingled with hazardous material,” said Planning and Development Director Heather Cotton. “We had to know what contaminants were on site and to what level they were at, so that we knew how they needed to be treated and disposed of in accordance with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.”

Now that debris is cleared from the property, 12 monitoring wells have been installed in areas where soil sampling was done. These wells monitor the water quality on the land and will remain in place until further cleanup can occur.

Officials are now working on the next phase of the cleanup, which at this point would include removing asbestos and contaminants buried in the ground, underground storage tanks, unusable industrial rail lines and a large wall that would hinder future development of the property. Clean fill dirt would then be used to replace contaminated soil, so that the land will be ready for development, according to the news release.

“We’ll be working with city and county staff and the project consultant to identify a potential project and source of funds,” said City Manager Bob Boyette. “We think we have a funding source identified through the EPA, which can then be recommended to City Council and County Commission for the next step.”

The earliest the city and county could apply for the EPA grant would be in late 2019/early 2020. Projects chosen for funding would be announced in the fall of 2020.

With phase I of the project complete, officials can reflect on how far the former industrial site has come over the last few years.

“The real culprit behind the terrible mess left at the Drexel site was the previous owner who took all the good and left all the broken, torn up debris,” said Mayor Steve Little. “It took a long time to identify and evaluate all the hazards on the site, both practical and environmental. We are proud of what the Drexel Heritage site looks like now and we look forward to working with the county commissioners as we seek to turn this site into a productive place at the edge of a vital residential and commercial area of Marion.”

The total cost of phase I of the Drexel Heritage cleanup was $ 1,311,135. Funding from the Community Development Block Grant, State Rural Building Demolition Grant and from the North Carolina Rural Economic Development grant, which came to the project after a request from Rep. Josh Dobson, helped cover $950,000 of the project cost. The city and county contributed $180,567 each toward phase I cleanup.

Once phase II of the project is complete, the property can be placed on the market. Since the Drexel Heritage site did receive industrial grants for the cleanup, it’s required that the land be marked for five years for industrial use. After that time period, it can be marked for the best use of the property.

Phase I cost of Drexel Heritage cleanup

Funding Source- amount

Community Development Block Grant-- $500,000

N.C. Dept. of Commerce Rural demolition grant --$150,000

N.C. Dept. of Rural Economic Development grant-- $300,000

McDowell County government contribution-- $180,567

City of Marion contribution -- $180,567

Total cost -- $1,311,135

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