September 03, 2013

[statement]“Virtually every former commercial or industrial property has some potential environmental issue. The key is recognizing it, determining how to best remediate it – and whether the property is worth the investment it will take to do so.” – Charlotte A. Biblow, Partner[/statement]

A commercial real estate firm’s long-term plan to turn several former industrial manufacturing sites into high-tech and light commercial centers represented a significant business opportunity – but only if it could overcome each property’s potential environmental challenges.

“When acquiring a commercial or industrial property – or in this case, several – environmental due diligence is critical,” according to Charlotte A. Biblow, partner in the Environmental Group at Farrell Fritz. “The purchaser must understand what its environmental risks are. Can they be remediated or controlled – and at what cost? Is the property worth the investment?” In such large-scale developments, taking the necessary corrective action can add up to millions of dollars over time.

For this client, the group worked closely with independent environmental consultants who investigated each parcel and came up with a remediation plan as well as its potential costs. They also worked with the firm’s Real Estate, Land Use & Municipal and Corporate & Finance Groups as well as local and state governmental agencies to ensure all aspects were considered and compliance issues addressed. A major concern at a few sites was soil vapor intrusion – the migration of volatile chemicals from underneath the building into the indoor space – which was addressed as part of the remediation plan.

“While some issues can be particularly challenging, there is always a way to deal with them,” she explained. “We just have to put our heads together, assess the risks and develop solutions.” The depth of the firm’s experience makes it possible: Charlotte and her colleagues have strong technical backgrounds that include degrees in the sciences, environmental science and land use planning.