Signs have gone up around the former metal foundry site at 3617 Baer St. in the Fifth Ward indicating that a hearing is scheduled for this Thursday to get city approval for the latest rejiggering of homesites on the 35-acre tract. Developer Frank Liu of Lovett Homes, InTown Homes, and a few other local builder brands plans to put a total of 538 homes (down from 589) on the EPA-monitored property, known as the MDI Superfund Site after the last owner of the metal-casting operations, Many Diversified Interests, which shut down in the early 1990s (previously, the plants were owned by TESCO). The property, which lies just south of I-10 about 2 miles of east of downtown, was listed on the EPA’s list of priority Superfund sites in 1999, after tests showed the soil and groundwater was contaminated with lead and other hazardous metals.
Liu made news in 2005, when an entity under his control purchased the property at a bankruptcy auction for $7.9 million. The following year, his Clinton-Gregg Investments became the first non-liable party ever to sign an agreement to clean up a Superfund site, at a cost the EPA had estimated at $6.6 million.
Two of the 3 site approvals Liu’s Fenway Development is seeking from the planning commission this Thursday should be approved without discussion. The third, for the eastern portion of the site bounded roughly by Hare St., Press St., Harsfai Dr., and Clinton Dr., requires a variance. The application requests permission to allow lots facing an open space (unspecified on the application) to gain access from a private alley, and to “allow lot size and width averaging along each individual shared driveway.”
The variance should be granted, argues the applicant trying to convert a hazardous waste site into a housing development, because it “will promote the public welfare by helping to create environmental diversity within the neighborhood.” The developer is calling the project Living Green.
- The MDI Superfund Site and Houston’s Fifth Ward (PDF) [EPA]
- Many Diversified Interests, Inc. Superfund Site (PDF) [EPA]
- Previously on Swamplot: Fifth Ward: New Urbanists Meet Old Toxic Waste
Photos: Swamplot inbox (variance sign); EPA (aerial)