Despite progress, shopping center still has far to go

Thornton city staff outline cleanup needs as first building comes down

Liam Adams
ladams@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/12/21

One of the Thornton Shopping Center’s derelict buildings has been demolished, but it still will be a while before the property can be redeveloped, Thornton City Council learned during a July 6 …

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Despite progress, shopping center still has far to go

Thornton city staff outline cleanup needs as first building comes down

Posted

One of the Thornton Shopping Center’s derelict buildings has been demolished, but it still will be a while before the property can be redeveloped, Thornton City Council learned during a July 6 planning session.

The shopping center’s cleanup operation has made significant progress in just the past month – both in remediating contaminated soil and addressing city code violations – after years of very little progress. However, the property owner has only completed part of the soil remediation, city staff said, and it’s unknown how long that will take.

The property has two major problems. First is the contamination of the soil and groundwater with perchloroethylene (PERC), a dry-cleaning chemical, of which the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment enforces the remediation. The second set of issues is structural and aesthetic ones with buildings, parking lots and sidewalks, which the city enforces through issuing municipal code violations.

Recently, contractors working for property owner Jay Brown completed off-site PERC remediation, a process that involves injecting chemicals into the subsurface to break down the PERC. Brown has not started on-site injections closer to the source of the contamination, and it doesn’t seem like he will anytime soon, explained John Cody, Thornton’s economic development director, at a council planning session July 6.

“He does not currently, at least according to him, have the funds to do the cleanup of the on-site contamination,” Cody added.

The city is considering paying for the on-site remediation. To do that, the city wants Brown to agree to a revised corrective action plan with CDPHE for a more comprehensive process that involves a contractor digging up the actual soil and baking away the contamination through an electronic process. That seems to be the most likely path at this point, which would take about two years. Another source hasn’t come forward offering to fund it.

Just looking at the still-needed on-site remediation, Mayor Pro Tem Jessica Sandgren asked at the planning session, “When we talk about redevelopment, it is still a ways down the road?”

Cody said it is.

“Until there is a revised corrective action plan to address the (on-site) contamination in that way, with funding from some source … nothing will happen,” he said.

At the same time, there is still a lot of progress to be made with the municipal code violations. So far, the city has issued two sets of code violations against Brown. Each set has a case in municipal court.

In the first case, in a follow-up sentencing hearing June 30, a municipal court judge levied $18,500 in financial penalties against Brown for failing to meet deadlines for certain cleanup projects. It was a relief to critics of Brown, who have previously watched municipal court judges decide against fines.

“I wanted more of a fine but am happy that accountability has finally arrived.,” said Séamus Blaney, a community member who’s been actively involved in efforts to clean up the property and hold Brown accountable, in an email. “I feel a little traction in the direction of progress.”

Also, on July 1, the property’s northern structure was demolished, a step towards addressing some of the first set of code violations. At the site of the demolition, Sandgren posted photos on Facebook and said, “For more than 15 years the Thornton Shopping Center property has been ignored by its property owner … Now because of the hard work of staff and efforts by Council, progress is finally being made!”

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