The Conservation Commission approved Thursday night the demolition and environmental cleanup of the old Salem Suede factory site at 72 Flint St.
The cleanup will include removal of old foundations and slabs in preparation for a future development of the site into a 130-apartment complex to be known as Riverview Place.
Bruce Poole with SP Engineering told the commission and about a dozen neighbors who attended the meeting that the work to clean up the old tannery site on Flint Street would likely begin by the end of February and would take six to nine months.
Michael O'Brien, one of the developers, has estimated the cleanup costs at $250,000, although the engineers said there are many variables in the project.
All the Salem Suede factory buildings have been demolished. Left on the site are the foundations, piles of bricks, concrete slabs and other debris. There is also contaminated soil to be removed or treated on site.
Commission members, who are concerned only with the impact of the project on the canal and adjacent land, complained that some of the clean-up, particularly near the North River canal, was too vague. Commission member Amy Hamilton said the specifications for some aspects of the project were “a little loose.”
The project engineers conceded that “they are playing it by ear” in some areas because they won't know what cleanup measures will be required until they start excavating the slabs and soil.
Poole outlined a series of measures to minimize the impact of the clean-up on the neighbors and on the workers. The site will be ringed with air quality and noise monitors that will check either continuously or at least twice day to make sure there are no contaminants in the air and the noise is kept to a tolerable level.
So far, in the long list of chemicals found in the soil at the old tannery, there are no volatile organisms, Poole said.
Neighbors voiced some concerns about the impact the large-scale project might have on their homes. Several, including the residents of the condominiums, said they are not opposed to improving the site, but want to keep the demolition and cleanup from causing damage to their properties.
“I am worried about this project,” said Bill Penta, a neighbor. “I want you to make me feel better.”
Most of the concerns focused on the potential release of contaminants into the air and the noise from the trucks and excavating equipment. Other concerns, including the location of trash and debris, have been resolved by the contractors. The materials were moved away from the neighbors' properties.
There is an appeals period of two weeks after the demolition certificate is issued.
Riverview Place LLC hopes to take ownership of the former Salem Suede site and the adjoining Bonfanti factory on Mason Street in the next few weeks. The factory will be razed as part of the demolition and cleanup phase, Poole said.
Once completed, Riverview Place would have 75 two-bedroom apartments and 55 one-bedroom units. Of those, 13 apartments would be affordable. A small retail space is planned.
There would be more than 300 parking spaces, including 12 set aside for neighbors who live on congested streets with little parking.