Ambler's most toxic locale could soon become one of its most eco-friendly, thanks to a final $2.5 million push from a regional coalition of governments.
The $14.7 million effort to convert the contaminated former site of the Ambler Boiler House asbestos factory into energy-efficient office space is now fully funded with the extension of a loan this week from the Metropolitan Caucus' EnergyWorks program, area leaders said.
The caucus, led by Mayor Nutter, is composed of council members and commissioners from surrounding counties. EnergyWorks grants loans, rebates, and tax credits to homeowners and developers to promote energy efficiency.
"Redevelopment of the Ambler Boiler House will convert this blighted and environmentally challenged property into a vibrant part of the local economy and spur others to invest in Ambler," Montgomery County Commissioners Chairman James R. Mathews said in a statement.
The Boiler House site, just yards from Ambler's revived Butler Avenue district and a SEPTA rail line, operated for nearly a century as an asbestos-manufacturing plant.
Since it was abandoned in the 1980s, the site has sat vacant because the price of cleanup proved too daunting for developers. Nine years ago, Summit Realty Advisors of New Castle, Del., took an interest in the location.
Since then, Summit has amassed more than $3 million in private funding and nearly $11 million in grants and loans from various government entities including Montgomery County, the governor's Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
"It's a bit of a labor of love," said John Zaharchuk, a developer with Summit. "I don't recommend anyone make a business out of projects with a nine-year gestation period."
Earlier this year, the company removed all asbestos contamination, including portions of the roof and a 20,000-gallon fuel tank buried under the building.
The new space, which will maintain the structure's distinctive redbrick facade and smokestack, is expected to seek certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, which offers an internationally recognized set of criteria recognizing eco-friendly construction.
Developers plan to install a geothermal well for heating and cooling, photovoltaic panels on the roof, and a system to capture storm-water runoff.
Summit hopes to open the building to new tenants by next summer.