4 Tips for Building in The Blue River Valley Industrial Corridor

Renewed interest in an historic industrial area of Kansas City is adding to the momentum of the city’s revitalization movement. The Blue River Valley Industrial Corridor (BRVIC) has been a local workhorse for over a century. As 2020 approaches, completion of a massive flood control project is breathing new life into the Corridor’s potential along with strategic investment in cleanup, infrastructure and other key areas aimed at attracting new business.

The Corridor straddles the Little Blue River from downtown to I-70 and I-435. Easy access via highway, rail and river makes it especially appealing, but the land itself is complicated by a variety of challenges. As more businesses explore a future in the Corridor, they should prepare for careful navigation of special circumstances that come with developing the land. Here are four considerations before digging in.

1. Factor in a Floodplain

The threat of river water is nothing new in the Corridor. The good news is the 30-year Blue River Channel Project has greatly improved the situation. However, the risk hasn’t been completely eliminated and about a third of the Corridor remains in a 100-year floodplain. If you’re thinking about building in the Corridor, proximity to the river will likely affect your plans. You can’t dig around freely near a river without understanding how it will impact your project both on the surface and below ground where excess water is absorbed and buoyancy forces can occur.

2. Expect Brownfield Complexities

“Brownfield” land, or land that’s been previously developed, can be really complicated. The Corridor’s industrial history dates back generations and has left layers of industrial debris buried deep in many areas. Careful drilling and sampling by an experienced team will be necessary to give project designers a feel for the ground material that will support structures.

Identifying and evaluating underground objects like machinery, storage containers, vehicles or even trees is critical because they can shift or collapse and compromise the soil. Don’t assume digging everything out and importing fill material is an option because the nearby presence of the river and your budget may not allow it.

ground development blue river valley kansas city

Underground caverns, pits and steel manufacturing debris are common. Photo courtesy: A.L. Huber

3. Prepare to Roll with the Punches

Evaluating a tract of Corridor land for construction isn’t something that only happens upfront. Surprises can pop up during the process and force changes in strategy. Alpha-Omega Geotech engineers or other engineers familiar with the Corridor will need to remain a part of your project team through foundation development.

Engineers will investigate the land initially and then confirm or revise their findings throughout the subsequent excavation. Multiple foundation platform choices should be considered, taking into account the soil profile, feasibility factors and budget realities. Land evaluation can be a complicated endeavor in the Corridor, requiring close collaboration and the judgment of engineers with experience in unusual conditions.

4. Know How to Work with Repurposed Structures

Your business may find new opportunities in old steel mill buildings or other aging, but still dependable structures that have endured in the Corridor. Making use of existing structures can make a lot of budget sense but comes with its own set of complexities. For example, if your plan for repurposing a structure is larger than the original foundation, you’ll need the expertise and experience required to precisely match any new foundation development with the old.

Material inspections become especially important as construction involving existing structural components above and below ground evolves. Everything will need to be carefully examined and tested with particular attention given to connections between old and new materials.

steel beams repurposed from an Armco Steel Mill

Siding and other new materials surround original steel beams repurposed from an Armco Steel Mill by A.L. Huber and Custom Truck One Source.

Don’t be intimidated. Just be ready.

The location and multimodel appeal of the Blue River Valley Industrial Corridor is an exciting prospect for businesses searching for the right conditions to develop and optimize operations in the heart of America. Knowing that local economic leaders and the surrounding community are eager to feed your success is a huge bonus. And partnering with build teams offering the right expertise and experience within the Corridor gives you a powerful advantage that streamlines and strengthens your effort.

Read about a project in our ongoing work with Custom Truck One Source in the Blue River Valley Industrial Corridor. >>

See how we helped KCP&L counter river forces in the upgrade of its Hawthorne Generation Station. >>