New owner begins asbestos removal at B.C. Cobb in Muskegon

bc-cobbMUSKEGON, MI – The B.C. Cobb power plant property changed hands in October and work to bring the structure down is getting started.

While not visible to the passerby, Forsite Development is working diligently to bring down the power plant and smoke stack at the 115-acre B.C. Cobb property at the east end of Muskegon Lake.

“Once it starts, it’s going to move quickly,” said Tom McKittrick, Forsite founder and president. “It’s got our full attention.”

After about 14 months of bidding and negotiating, the North Carolina company took ownership of the property on Oct. 18. Forsite received the property and $1 million from Consumers Energy.

B.C. Cobb was shuttered in April 2016 after 67 years of operation.

Consumers spent about $22 million to shut down B.C. Cobb, said Roger Morgenstern, Consumers’ senior public information director, in April. Costs included disconnecting the plant from the power grid, removing bulk materials from the property and reconfiguring a still-operating substation.

Forsite has until October 2019 – two years – to completely remove the plant.

But the goal is to finish within 18-20 months, McKittrick said. The “mobilization process” has begun.

Inside, contractors are prepping for asbestos abatement, he said. Abatement will take about 6-8 months.

“There’s a lot of work to do inside first,” McKittrick said. “Next summer, people will start to see activity out there.”

Forsite’s redevelopment plans include converting the site into a deep-water marine terminal operated by Verplank Dock Co. for cross-Lake Michigan shipping. Forsite is working with Muskegon-area economic development officials to identify land for a sister industrial park for new players that could take advantage of the logistics route.

Finding a large enough parcel of land for an industrial park inside the city of Muskegon has proven difficult, McKittrick said.

But he’s confident that the park would attract food processors that could take advantage of Muskegon’s unique attributes: proximity to agribusiness and cross-Lake Michigan shipping, and Muskegon County’s abundance of waste water treatment capacity.

By October 2019, the former B.C. Cobb plant site will be cleared of buildings.

“It could look more like stacks of shipping containers or bulk material piles,” McKittrick said. “New buildings are very difficult to build on that site because it’s effectively sediment.”

B.C. Cobb is built on 300-foot deep pilings that go down to bedrock, he added.


Charlotte’s Forsite strikes $62 million deal tackling shuttered coal plants

pier-at-cobb-coal-plant_320xx4276-2400-1213-0Tom McKittrick’s Forsite Development has kicked off a new line of its brownfields redevelopment business with a $62 million deal to take on the environmental liability of two large coal plants in Michigan.

Consumers Energy, the state’s largest electric utility, has paid Forsite to take control of the B.C. Cobb plant in Muskegon, Mich., and the J.R. Whiting plant in Luna Pier, Mich. The deals are “environmental liability risk” contracts in which Fosite gets the property (about 410 acres between the two sites) but also takes on the liability for cleaning up the sites.

“We’re responsible for decommissioning the properties and closing out all the environmental conditions on site,” says McKittrick, whose Charlotte-based development company has been involved in the redevelopment of industrial and environmentally challenged properties for years. “Almost all of our business has evolved (now) into environmental liability risk-transfer deals.”

And most of the focus is on former coal plants, where McKittrick sees enormous opportunity.

“You have all these shuttered coal-fired utility plants coming off line at one time,” he says. “Now we are literally talking to utilities all over the country about this model for them to divest their coal plants and put them in someone’s hands for redevelopment.”


Economic development
Forsite makes its money off the eventual development of the sites. But McKittrick says the company also sees opportunity to make money in the initial transaction.

“We have to be compensated for the risk we take,” he says. “We’re hoping there is some arbitrage between the decommissioning cost and what we are paid for the project.”

Roger Morgenstern, public information director for Consumers, says his utility closed the two coal plants (and a third not involved in the deal) in 2015. It asked for proposals from companies that would redevelop the land into something that created economic opportunity for the communities where the plants had been important employers.

The company also wanted developers that would take the environmental liability, to protect their customers from potential price shocks. Consumers estimates that ending its liability through the Forsite deal will ultimately save its customers about $31 million over the utility doing the demolition and remediation itself.

Shipping plan
As for economic development, McKittrick proposed a project at Cobb that will make use of a pier capable of serving 1,000-foot container ships. The plant had used the pier for coal deliveries. But Forsite proposes developing it as a port for food processors that need a way to ship product west from Muskegon but want to avoid delays at the crowded Chicago shipping lanes.

Morgenstern says that from the Cobb pier, there is a trip of some 83 miles across Lake Michigan to the port of Milwaukee. McKittrick says that route can cut up to three days out of the logistics run for food processors by going around Chicago.

McKittrick says that pier and shipping channel form the heart of the redevelopment plan for Cobb. He believes the Cobb site and some additional land nearby can be redeveloped as an industrial site for new food-processing companies to move into the region.

Morgenstern says that fits well with the local economy. Agriculture is second only to the auto industry among Michigan’s top businesses, he says.

Plans for the Whiting site are not as fully developed. But McKittrick is looking at the possibility of an inter-modal transportation site there because the plant has facilities to accommodate 360 rail cars on site (Morgenstern says all coal came by rail to that eastern Michigan plant) and is just off Interstate 75. That makes it an excellent site for rail-to-truck shipping.

Risk-transfer deals are new for Forsite, but McKittrick says they are a natural outgrowth of the brownfields business that had become the company’s bread and butter.

In what may be Forsite’s best-known project — the self-styled eco-industrial ReVenture Park near Charlotte — Forsite did not take on the environmental liability. That 2013 project to redevelop the former Clariant Corp. industrial site in Mount Holly into an industrial park focused on environmental sustainability, followed what had been Forsite’s policy. In that deal, Clariant continues to be liable for the environmental remediation.

Dipped its toes
Although Forsite did not assume liability on most of its brownfields projects, McKittrick says, the company became increasingly familiar — and comfortable — with environmental remediation in the course of that work.

Then starting in late 2015, Forsite dipped its toes deeper in the risk-transfer waters with the purchase over the next several months of three small coal plants in eastern North Carolina.

The plants — one 32 megawatts and two 35 megawatts — were former merchant plants previously owned by Charlotte-based Cogentrix.

McKittrick says there was not any significant environmental liability at the plants. He said it was basically a matter of cleaning up the coal yards and dealing with some underground storage tanks.

But he says he saw the potential for more involved deals for large coal plants.

Bigger deals
Consumers had closed the 300-megawatt Cobb plant and 330 megawatt Whiting plant in April 2016. That summer, it advertised for proposals and McKittrick got involved. Consumers chose Forsite in April and the deal closed Oct. 16. McKittrick thinks this is the model for most of Forsite’s deals in the future.

“We are focused almost exclusively on acquiring and developing shuttered coal plants,” he says. “Now that we have been in a deal with a large utility, I think we have an incredible amount of opportunity.”

None of the deals to date have involved taking liability for the coal-ash ponds on the plant sites. McKittrick says he believes Forsite could do such a deal, though it would probably steer clear of high-risk ash ponds near rivers and lakes. Though he did not say, that would make it unlikely he could do a deal with Duke Energy, for instance, in the Carolinas.

But he does believe he could do larger coal sites even than those in the Consumers deal. He says Forsite is slated to go out West shortly to do some initial work on a possible deal involving a 2,400-megawatt plant.

“The bigger the better for us, actually,” he says.


EPA Recognizes North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality for Property Reuse Achievements at Superfund Sites

WASHINGTON (November 7, 2017) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) has received EPA’s “Excellence in State Engagement Supporting Reuse Award” for the agency’s ongoing commitment to support redevelopment and community revitalization.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) has received EPA’s “Excellence in State Engagement Supporting Reuse Award” for the agency’s ongoing commitment to support redevelopment and community revitalization.

“NCDEQ is being lauded for their innovative approaches to support the reuse of Superfund Sites across the state,” said Trey Glenn, EPA Regional Administrator for the Southeast. “North Carolina’s strategic thinking has helped return blighted properties to beneficial use, and provide environmental as well as economic benefits for its citizens.”

EPA created the award to recognize state partners whose work supporting the reuse of Superfund sites has led to lasting benefits that enhance community quality of life and ensure the long-term protectiveness of site remedies and stewardship of the environment.

This award recognizes the NCDEQ for promoting redevelopment at contaminated sites through the innovative use of Geographic Information Systems to provide information for potential developers on site use limitations.

Additionally, NCDEQ played an important role in facilitating the redevelopment of the Martin-Marietta, Sodyeco, Inc. Superfund site 10 miles west of Charlotte, N.C., into ReVenture Park, a business park focused on energy efficiency, renewable energy and environmental technology.

Finally, NCDEQ’s involvement in the cleanup and reuse planning processes at the Ecusta Mill Superfund site in Pisgah Forest, N.C., resulted in the site becoming a model for reuse of formerly contaminated industrial sites. Cleanup is ongoing at the site but plans are in place to redevelop the property in a multi-use, residential, commercial and green space village that will complement downtown Brevard, N.C.

More information about this award can be found on EPA’s website at:


Port project at former Muskegon coal plant aims to tap into region’s ag industry


MUSKEGON — As a result of the challenging economics of maintaining decades-old coal plants, communities nationwide have wrestled with how to replace lost tax revenue and repurpose large industrial brownfield sites when those facilities close.

For the B.C. Cobb coal plant in Muskegon, whose towering smokestack is an unmistakable feature along the east end of Muskegon Lake, Consumers Energy has selected North Carolina-based Forsite Development Inc. to capitalize on the site’s deep-water dock location.

Forsite President Tom McKittrick told MiBiz he envisions two features for the 115-acre property going forward: maintaining and consolidating aggregate delivery on the east end of the lake and developing a shipping market between Muskegon and Milwaukee “that doesn’t exist currently.”

“We think there’s a lot of potential” for a cross-lake shipping route, one that could support more agricultural food processing in the area, McKittrick said. 

“A lot of agricultural products are grown in West Michigan, and a great percentage of those are being shipped out of the state to be processed,” he said. “If Michigan companies move into those markets, a route that allows them to bypass the congestion in the Chicago market could move it more efficiently to Milwaukee markets.”

When the Cobb plant shut down in April 2016, officials voiced concerns about jeopardizing federal funding for harbor dredging if shipments through the port fell below the annual 1 million ton threshold for commercial ports. 

However, local officials involved with the B.C. Cobb project say federal lawmakers have spent the past year making that requirement more discretionary and based on a formula, and aggregate shipments to the port have since increased to replace the loss of coal.

In addition to its unique shipping port, Muskegon also drew McKittrick in with its “massive” wastewater treatment plant east of U.S. 31, which he believes can help support agricultural processing facilities.

“Food processing needs wastewater treatment — that’s a huge piece of the puzzle for site selection for food processing projects,” McKittrick said. “With that wastewater treatment capacity and a potential new transportation route to get agricultural products into Midwest markets, I think the combination of those two things has potential to attract food processing companies to Muskegon and the region.”

McKittrick, who is originally from Indiana and has spent much of his career in commercial real estate, wants to transform the Cobb site into an industrial park that is tied to the wastewater treatment plant. Any kind of vertical development has been largely off the table due to the unstable soil at the site. 

“There are opportunities specifically in the food processing arena that could be created by linking those two assets,” he said. “In my opinion, that hasn’t been done effectively yet.”


In late April, Consumers announced a plan to offer Forsite $1 million to take over the property, decommission and demolish the site and remove environmental contamination.

Because Consumers is divesting electricity-generating assets in Muskegon and at the J.R. Whiting coal plant in Monroe County, the plan is subject to approval by the Michigan Public Service Commission. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 31 and a final decision will come within 180 days of the filing.

Consumers Energy spokesperson Roger Morgenstern is optimistic the plan will receive approval before the end of the summer. It will take roughly two years thereafter to demolish the site. Morgenstern said the roughly 60 employees at the plant have relocated to other Consumers facilities in West Olive and Ludington, or have retired.

According to MPSC filings, Consumers said it would be cheaper to leave the decommissioning and demolition to Forsite rather than perform that work itself.

The utility first announced plans to close the Cobb plant in 2011. Since then, the debate over coal plant economics has largely turned political. Republicans criticize the Obama administration for stringent air pollution regulations that are leading to widespread closures, and thus a downturn in the U.S. coal sector. However, the prevailing thinking among industry analysts and utilities holds that the decline in natural gas prices, in particular, has made coal less attractive.

“We felt that continued investment in these older coal plants is not in the best interest of our customers,” Morgenstern said. 

Along with DTE Energy, Consumers has shifted investments toward natural gas plants and infrastructure, as well as to wind and solar projects. Officials with Michigan’s two largest utilities have said publicly this transition was happening regardless of how the Trump administration aims to change U.S. energy policy.

“We are looking to cleaner, less carbon-emitting plants and not continuing to invest in some of our smaller (coal) plants,” Morgenstern said. “These plants have served us well for the past 60-70 years. It’s like an old car: You have to decide when to stop putting money into it.”

Erin Kuhn, executive director of the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission, said the B.C. Cobb redevelopment could be transformational for the city of Muskegon, as the port has been identified in numerous reports as a regionally significant economic driver. That it’s taking place at a former coal plant is all the more symbolic.

“We’re helping the community redefine the next phase of Muskegon Lake as an economic engine for that community and region,” Kuhn said.


Founded in 2004, Forsite specializes in acquiring industrial properties and returning them to use with an emphasis on environmental preservation and creating “ecological assets,” McKittrick said. Adding clean energy features to these sites is part of what the company describes as “eco-industrial” redevelopment. Forsite’s ReVenture Park project in Charlotte, N.C., for example, included extensive habitat restoration projects, a major aquaculture facility and a biomass plant.

Forsite broke into this particular type of redevelopment as “surplus real estate” in the Carolinas became available when textile furniture manufacturing moved overseas, McKittrick said. Now, the energy transition happening nationwide — a shift that relies less on coal and more on natural gas and renewable energy — is creating similar opportunities, he said.

“With all of these coal-fired plants shutting down at one time, we think there’s tremendous opportunity to go repurpose those sites and do the exact same thing,” he said. “With coal plants in general, if people look at them through a different sense, they can be turned back into assets and maybe help foster more renewable energy development because of interconnection (assets).”

McKittrick said Forsite has acquired three coal plants in North Carolina and sold two of them to a biomass developer.

Specific features for the Cobb property remain unknown at this point. Renderings provided by the company show the potential for solar energy generation, which McKittrick said would have to be owned by Consumers Energy. Wetland restoration could be another component.

While the company is not taking the coal ash storage impoundments at the site, Forsite will oversee the abatement of asbestos and other contaminants.

“There’s a multitude of environmentally sensitive projects that we can weave into one of these projects that aren’t necessarily adding a lot of cost, but are putting areas of sites to good use that are otherwise unusable,” he said. 


Forsite Development to Acquire Two Consumers Energy Sites

JACKSON, Mich., April 25, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Consumers Energy has selected an experienced firm to demolish and redevelop two of its former coal-fired power plants.

Citing the successful track record of Forsite Development Inc. with repurposing industrial property, Consumers Energy tapped the North Carolina company to redevelop its 115-acre B.C. Cobb Generating Plant in Muskegon and 248-acre J.R. Whiting Generating Complex in Luna Pier, near Monroe.

Today, Consumers Energy filed a request with the Michigan Public Service Commission seeking approval to have Forsite acquire the two sites. The MPSC has up to 180 days to act on the request.  It is anticipated the sites will be demolished within two years of the transaction being finalized, pending a positive outcome with the MPSC review. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Consumers retired those two plants, comprised of five generating units and two other units, in April 2016.

Led by founder and President Tom McKittrick, Forsite was selected to acquire both sites on the strength of its plan to improve the properties and return them to productive use. Forsite’s initial vision for both sites includes plans to:

  • Convert the B.C. Cobb property into a deep-water marine terminal on the east end of Muskegon Lake for cross-lake shipping. Additionally, Forsite has begun working with Muskegon-area economic development officials to identify land for a sister industrial park designed to attract new industries that can take advantage of a cross-lake logistics route.
  • Develop the J.R. Whiting property into an inland intermodal terminal, offering rail-to-truck facilities utilizing the site’s extensive rail infrastructure. The site’s immediate access to I-75 and rail capabilities has potential to create spin off economic development opportunities, specifically heavy manufacturing and distribution.

“These properties powered homes and businesses for many decades, and we are pleased that they will generate new economic growth under the stewardship of Forsite,” said Dan Malone, senior vice president of energy resources for Consumers Energy. “We want to leave it better than we found it, and having Forsite, a successful redeveloper with a proven track record, acquire the sites will allow the communities of Muskegon and Luna Pier to see new life for these properties.”

Charlotte-based Forsite has already redeveloped more than 7 million square feet of facilities on 3,000+ acres over the past decade-and-a-half. Forsite’s projects have created or retained more than 1,000 jobs.

Forsite’s most prominent project was the adaptive re-use of a shuttered 667-acre dye manufacturing complex along the Catawba River in Charlotte, North Carolina, now known as ReVenture Park ( ReVenture is now the thriving home of numerous sustainable and renewable energy companies.

For the B.C. Cobb site, McKittrick has selected Verplank Dock Co. to operate the port terminal and help develop the cross-lake deep-water shipping market.

For the J.R. Whiting site, McKittrick plans to begin marketing and pre-development activities for the intermodal terminal concurrent with demolishing the plant, which he expects will take two years.

“Both sites have the benefit of existing heavy infrastructure which we intend to repurpose in a manner to attract new industry,” said McKittrick, who founded Forsite in 2004. “We’re honored and humbled that Consumers Energy chose us to create a new use for these sites. We look forward to working with community leaders in Muskegon and Luna Pier.”

The board of directors of CMS Energy, the parent company of Consumers Energy, has approved the agreements with Forsite with the final transactions needing approval by the MPSC.

About Forsite Development
Tom McKittrick founded Charlotte-based Forsite Development, Inc. in 2004. The privately held firm has since redeveloped 7 million square feet of facilities on 3,000+ acres in North Carolina and South Carolina, and created or preserved more than 1,000 jobs. Its largest project is ReVenture Park in Charlotte, a 667-acre former brownfield Superfund site that is now home to a thriving collection of renewable energy companies and was named “Business Conservationist of the Year” for 2016 by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.

About Consumers Energy
Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.7 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

Page 1 of 15 12345...»