Thursday, January 31, 2013

Renewed Community Interest in Longmont's sugar beet factory

A photo exhibit at the Longmont Museum has sparked some renewed community interest in the Longmont (part 1, part 2) sugar beet factory site.  Photographer Mark Ivins somehow gained access to the inside of the factory and took a few pictures.  

A warning is up, of course, advising others not to try enter the factory on their own:

Longmont Sugar Factory (2008)

As a result of the increased interest (it happens every five years or so), the Museum sponsored a talk by David Starnes (City of Longmont) and Mark Walker (Colorado Brownfields Foundation) about the status of the factory site and the obstacles involved with getting it redeveloped.  CBF also helps with the cleanup of old gas stations, dry cleaning sites, etc.

As mentioned previously, the environmental cleanup is the largest obstacle in getting the site redeveloped.  Lime on the outside of the factory, and asbestos inside are the two main problems.

Some interesting points of the talk:
  • The factory site consists of 88 acres and is actually outside city limits, in unincorporated Boulder County.   It has been owned privately by an investor since the 1980's.  If and when a public/private redevelopment effort ever gets started, the land would likely be annexed to Longmont.  Many have assumed that such a project would have been started years ago, given the rising land values in Boulder County.  As Longmont is fairly built out now, this is the last large development site remaining.
  • As shown in the picture above, about 500,000 to 700,000 cubic yards of lime (a byproduct of the  beet sugar process) is parked near the site, taking up 40 acres.  It's mixed with dirt and other debris (nuts, bolts, etc.) so it would have to be filtered at extra expense before it could be used.  There are uses for it in Colorado, such as filling-in mines, but there is no way to profitably transport it.   The Cemex cement factory 15 miles away in Lyons can mine limestone for $3/ton.  At that price, you couldn't even haul the factory lime there and come out ahead. It was noted that  Greeley got rid of some of their factory lime by filling in a nearby gravel pit.   If you have some entrepreneurial spirit, you could start a business making a Tums-like product there, given that your raw materials are already onsite!

  • The Eaton factory is currently near completion of an $8 to $9 million EPA asbestos removal program, which has been going on for nearly five years.  The EPA tends to get involved in cleanup efforts like this when there are residents close by.  The Longmont factory doesn't yet have this problem but it could someday. 

  • The site could be favorable for a passenger transportation station now that it appears that the long-delayed RTD FasTraks project will be routed on I-25, instead of via Boulder.

  • Some ideas for the use of the property were volunteered by the audience, including using it for a large indoor athletic facility,  having an outdoor concert park there,  and putting a restaurant on top of one of the silo's, providing a great view of the Front Range!

No answers or solutions right now but there are people thinking about the problems.

1 comment:

G.E. said...

I have to admit, I am jealous that this photographer was able to get on to the grounds. A few years ago, I wanted to paint this factory (still do, actually), but the photographs I can obtain from outside aren't exactly ideal. What a great treat though to see the inside of this factory.