Politicians, economic developers, sustainability advocates and energy entrepreneurs and regulators were among the 170 speakers and guests who showed up Thursday for the official unveiling of the ReVenture Park in Mount Holly. PHOTOS
And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was on hand to give park developer Tom McKittrick an “Excellence in Reuse” award for the industrial park anchored by two small renewable-energy projects, housing a handful of sustainable business startups and featuring large swaths of dedicated green space. That last includes a 175 environmental easement along the Catawba River and Long Creek.
Franklin Hill, director of the EPA’s Superfund Program for Region 4, called ReVenture a success story — even in its embryonic stage — for demonstrating how environmentally damaged industrial sites can be reclaimed with clean industry businesses.
Ugliness and opportunity
In accepting the award, McKittrick acknowledged that converting the former Superfund site into what he calls an eco-industrial park was “not the most glamorous job in the real estate business.”
“It’s been a long, slow climb, and sometimes felt like crawling on glass,” he said. “But where other people see ugliness, I see opportunity.”
Hill recognized other partners with McKittrick. Those included Clariant Corp., which agreed to the lease-sale of the 667-acre former textile mill site to McKittrick’s Forsite Development and took responsibility for cleaning up the site.
CEO Ken Golder said his company was glad the plant’s history of providing jobs in the region going back to the 1930s would continue with “the site’s new lease on life.”
“It will be important to economic development. It will be bring new jobs based on an environmental and sustainable network of industries,” he said.
N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory praised McKittrick for sticking with the project through five sometimes difficult years. And he said it was satisfying the site redeveloped.
State House Speaker Thom Tillis, following McCrory, noted that the former Charlotte mayor had said the once-important site had become an eyesore after it had been abandoned. “Now it is a sight for sore eyes,” Tillis said.