Remediation in Las Vegas

By Gary Carter and Daniel Burns | September 28, 2010

An artist's rendering shows the completed Union Park as envisioned by the city of Las Vegas. Newland Communities

Union Park in downtown Las Vegas is one of the most ambitious brownfield redevelopment programs in the country. The project aims to convert more than 61 acres of a former rail yard and maintenance facility into a green urban destination complete with a towering skyline.

In fact, the estimated $6-billion Union Park project is the only project in the state of Nevada to be accepted into the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Neighborhood Development national pilot program.

The success of Union Park strongly depends on the cleanup of the petroleum-impacted soils — a challenge the city of Las Vegas prepared for since the project's inception.

"The city of Las Vegas has long recognized the potential of the Union Park site as a catalyst to downtown redevelopment," said Scott D. Adams, director of the office of business development for the city. "That's why site cleanup has always been a top priority. It's allowing us to reclaim the very heart of our city and to put downtown Las Vegas on the map with the city's most impressive collection of important civic, medical and cultural facilities."

During the initial planning stages, the city requested assistance from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection through the statewide Brownfields Program to prepare a comprehensive soil and groundwater management plan. The NDEP assigned Kleinfelder, a nationwide engineering and environmental consulting firm, the task of preparing this plan under its multiyear brownfields program contract.

A Guide for Developers

More than just an environmental study of existing site conditions, this plan is a guide for all site developers and construction teams to handle potentially petroleum-impacted soil. It outlines project-specific guidelines and procedures for managing the soils and groundwater resources of the entire 61-acre Union Park site. Kleinfelder also has put the plan to use providing daily oversight of the soil management, sampling soil stockpiles, and preparing reports during excavation activities for the early development projects.

As Jorge Cervantes, P.E., city of Las Vegas public works director, attests, "The soil and groundwater management plan for Union Park has improved the communication with interested developers and contractors on this project. As everyone knows, communication is the key to the success for any public works project."

Completed during the course of four weeks, this plan defines proper handling and documentation of each soil classification, source locations and the purpose of removal (as well as designated separate stockpile areas for each parcel). The plan also outlines groundwater management requirements for each parcel, as well as recommended groundwater management techniques.

The comprehensive soil and groundwater management plan is available for every developer to use as part of the request for proposal process to help contractors bid excavation and construction tasks appropriately and accurately. This plan reduces the chance of soil-related challenges down the road that might slow the project completion. Along with historical documentation, the soil and groundwater management plan is also used to develop the proper precautions for worker health and safety related to possible hazardous material exposure during construction.

First Phase Begins

With the soil and groundwater management plan in place, the Las Vegas City Council authorized $40 million in funding for the first phase of infrastructure in Union Park. In 2007, developers began construction of the first anchor facility, the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute, designed by famed architect Frank Gehry.

The second anchor facility, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, designed by architect David Schwarz, is scheduled to break ground in early 2009. The city also approved development of The Charlie Palmer, a boutique hotel with plans to include 400 elegantly appointed and spacious suites and rooms; a 10,000-square-foot spa with recreational fitness and restorative wellness amenities; and a sky terrace that overlooks Symphony Park, Union Park's own version of Central Park.

The city and its project manager, Newland Communities, are working with developers to focus on land disposition activity relating to development of the rest of the master plan. This includes a residential district complete with low- and high-rise condominiums and apartments and a specialty district anchored by the World Jewelry Center, along with specialty retail and hotel ventures. Build-out of the entire 61-acre Union Park site — estimated at more than 11 million square feet — is projected by 2020.

"As the single largest non-tourist-based southern Nevada project under development, Union Park will forever change the downtown Las Vegas skyline," said Rita Brandin, senior vice president of development for Newland Communities, retained by the city in December 2005 to serve as project manager for Union Park. "This remediation is being orchestrated on many levels by many different entities — for the common goal of reclaiming the site and transforming a once barren brownfield into an urban, mixed-use community the likes of which Las Vegas has not yet seen." n

Author Information
Gary Carter is the Environmental Group manager for Kleinfelder. Daniel Burns, P.G., C.E.M. is a senior professional with Kleinfelder. For more information about Kleinfelder, visit For more information about Union Park, visit