NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Workers began cleaning up the former site of the Ferren Mall and parking deck this week near downtown New Brunswick, according to Middlesex County.
The move represents yet another step toward the property's future. While which tenants and what exactly will occupy the site remain unclear, it's poised to harbor high-rise towers featuring office, research, residential and retail space, officials have said. The project is called The Hub @ New Brunswick Station.
Late last year, crews began demolishing the old Ferren Mall and parking deck. The structure stood there for decades. But only once it came down could the county rid the property of longstanding pollutants, officials told TAPinto New Brunswick.
Middlesex County has taken responsibility for cleaning the site. That's because an oil tank that served the county's old administration building in the 1980s caused the mess, officials have said.
Indeed, contaminants on the Ferren site are a type of fuel oil known as light non-aqueous phase liquids, a county official who declined to be identified by name told TAPinto New Brunswick. Such contaminants typically float atop groundwater, according to online posts.
The county has begun to remove groundwater and the soil stockpile, which were exposed after the parking deck came down, county officials said.
In 2015, Middlesex tapped a licensed site remediation professional to create and launch a cleanup plan for the property, according to the county.
Environmental experts inspected the site before the parking deck came down, Christopher Paladino, head of the New Brunswick Development Corporation, or Devco, which is marketing the site, said last year. But now the county's cleanup experts must investigate the scope of underground contamination, county officials said.
“Now that the Ferren Deck has been removed and the site is accessible, the remedial investigation will establish the limits of contamination,” a county official said.
From there, the county will finalize its plans for restoring the site. Until those details are set in stone, however, the county declined to estimate how much the cleanup could cost.
How long it will take to refurbish the site is also unclear. But Mitchell Karon, executive director of the New Brunswick Parking Authority, which is a major stakeholder in the redevelopment project, said work could come to a halt by the end of September.
Once the cleanup is done, the environmental expert will install monitoring wells to keep tabs on conditions at the site, officials said.
Devco and the parking authority have yet to release a construction timeline for The Hub @ New Brunswick Station. It depends, Karon said, on when Devco finds major tenants for the development.
“It's not imminent,” he said.
A different sort of change might soon sprout on the property. When the county completes its cleanup, the parking authority hopes to install meters at a surface lot on the site and open it to the public, Karon said.