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National museum features planned Michigan redevelopment project

Release Date: 10/22/2008
Contact Information: Karen Thompson, 312-353-8547,

No. 08-OPA169

(Chicago, Ill. - Oct. 22, 2008) A planned Muskegon Heights housing development hasn't even been built yet, but it's already in a museum. Mona Terrace, a residential neighborhood projected for the site of a former municipal wastewater treatment plant, is part of an exhibit opening Oct. 23 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

The year-long exhibition titled "Green Community" features communities of all sizes where government and the private sector are coming together to work for a more sustainable future. It's the third in a series of National Building Museum exhibitions that focus on sustainability in architecture, planning and design.

"Mona Terrace was chosen for this exhibit because it's part of a national EPA pilot program to show how contaminated sites known as 'brownfields' can be redeveloped and put to good use," said Ann Wentz of EPA's Region 5 office in Chicago. "The Mona Terrace plan creates a walkable, sustainable community with gardens and spaces for kids to play."

The 51-acre site near Little Black Creek in Muskegon Heights is being cleaned up and redeveloped through the combined efforts of EPA, local and state governments, and private developers. Bruce Clarke, an environmental engineer for Williams and Beck Inc., who has been consulting on the project with the city since 2001, said a collaborative effort was important to finding ways to pay for the work and for getting the project off the ground.

Clarke said sustainability will be a key factor in every phase of the redevelopment, beginning with demolition on the site, tentatively planned for the spring of 2009.

"The plan is to recycle all materials from the demolition, like steel, aluminum and copper," Clarke said. "We may also be able to recycle old concrete into road-bed material, and some of the mechanical equipment on the site might be reused somewhere else. We're even looking at reusing some of the tanks from the old wastewater treatment plant."

When basic development work begins on utilities and streets, as early as fall of 2009, more sustainable practices will start to find their way into the project. City officials and developers hope to incorporate solar and wind power as well as green roof technology.

"The Mona Terrace project is part of EPA's Environmentally Responsible Redevelopment and Reuse Initiative, which we call ER3," said Sara Rasmussen of the Office of Solid Waste at EPA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. "The program promotes sustainable cleanup and reuse of contaminated sites in ways that help reduce the environmental impacts of the redevelopment, including wildlife habitat destruction, stormwater runoff and energy consumption. ER3 builds on EPA's efforts to use redevelopment and revitalization of contaminated sites as a way to encourage cleanups that otherwise may not occur."

ER3 seeks to establish the next generation of environmental protection - one that prevents or reduces contamination in developed areas. To achieve this goal, EPA - through the ER3 initiative - will encourage developers and property owners to implement sustainable practices during the redevelopment of contaminated sites.

The "Green Community" exhibition is designed to answer two questions, "What kind of community is green?" and "How can we make communities green?" Visitors will learn that a green community conserves its land, offers multiple options for transportation, provides open space for recreation and cultivation, and uses its natural and cultural resources wisely. Mona Terrace is featured in the part of the exhibit exploring sustainable planning strategies such as cleaning up and redeveloping brownfields, planning for diverse modes of transportation, smart use of natural resources, land conservation and minimizing waste.

Other communities in the exhibit are located throughout the United States as well as in countries such as Argentina and the United Arab Emirates. The diverse array of communities highlighted demonstrates successful and innovative examples of sustainable planning, policies, design and technology at scales large and small.

When "Green Community" closes its run at the National Building Museum in October 2009, the exhibit will travel to other cities. The museum is America's leading cultural institution dedicated to exploring and celebrating architecture, design, engineering, construction and planning. Open since 1985, the National Building Museum is located at 401 F St. N.W., Washington, D.C. Admission is free.

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