Gainesville’s “Central Park” Emerges from a Contaminated Brownfield

Gainesville, Florida

Gainesville’s flagship park is located along Depot Avenue south of downtown on a 32-acre site created from a collection of different land tracks suffering from various sources of contamination. With the vision to create a public space to strengthen community bonds and foster the City’s economic vitality the Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU) hired ECT to help clean up the contaminated property while also creating stormwater infrastructure to handle demands of continued growth.

The first step was to clean up the property. ECT characterized the site, identified various sources and extent of soil and groundwater contamination, and performed a human health and ecological risk assessment. ECT prepared the Remedial Action Plan and oversaw cleanup of the entire site. The design solution – known as “the Big Dig” – included the excavation and off-site disposal of more than 147,000 tons of contaminated soil. Over 100 wells dewatered the area processing more than 40 million gallons of contaminated water through sand filters and activated carbon prior discharge into Sweetwater Branch Creek.

Subsequently, ECT worked as part of a team to design the restoration of the site into a contemporary greenspace for public enjoyment, complete with beautiful landscapes, cycling and walking trails, and The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention. Unique to the engineering design, the park treats stormwater runoff from a total of 89 acres beyond the park limits. The stormwater treatment system captures runoff from 27 acres of downtown Gainesville as well as runoff from 42 acres of water from the re-routed Sweetwater Branch Creek. The treatment train concept incorporates baffle boxes, forebays, wet detention ponds, a stream, and wetland treatment.

ECT developed the pollutant loading and removal efficiencies for the overall system, permitting the site through various agencies, including Florida Department of Environmental Protection, St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the City of Gainesville. ECT also helped the City establish a credit bank system with SJRWMD to promote growth and redevelopment within the basin.

Once the stormwater restoration was completed in 2012, the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) rehabilitated the Historic Depot building relocating it within Depot Park. In 2016 ECT worked with a design team to create a unique children’s play area with splash pad and an accessible waterfront promenade. Today the park regularly hosts special City events including festivals, races, concerts, community yoga and more.

After 20 years of ongoing design, oversight, and monitoring ECT is in the final stages of mitigation monitoring and is in negotiations with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection regarding final environmental monitoring.

Client / Owner
Gainesville Regional Utility, City of Gainesville
Project Timeline
January 2000 – Ongoing
  • 20+ year client relationship
  • Remediation and redevelopment
  • Stormwater treatment train
  • Community revitalization
  • Innovative funding management
  • State and federal permitting

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