JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A site the Environmental Protection Agency once described as one of the most polluted sites in the U.S. is among the potential destinations for the Sulzbacher Center.
But even though members of the Jacksonville City Council say they’re told the homeless shelter will be moving to Fairfax Street, the organization’s president and CEO tells News4Jax nothing is set in stone.
Based on the reputation of the site, a gated open field with a history of contamination, some people say Sulzbacher should reconsider relocating there.
As News4Jax previously reported, City Councilman Garrett Dennis said he was told the organization’s leadership wants to move its downtown homeless shelter to 2610 Fairfax Street. He said he’s under the impression those plans are being fast-tracked.
Reginald Horace, who frequents the Sulzbacher Center, said he’s heard about the potential move.
“If a site has contamination and flooding issues from the past, I honestly feel like it should be taken out of the equation, as far as the new location,” Horace told News4Jax on Thursday.
In 2017, the EPA called the Fairfax Street Superfund site one of the most polluted in the country. It was an old pressure-treating facility. The owner filed for bankruptcy and abandoned the facility in 2010.
In 2018, tests showed the soil there was still contaminated with traces of arsenic, despite cleanup efforts over the years. According to published reports, the site left workers and residents sick.
Marvin Prier lives near Fairfax Street, telling News4Jax he’s raised his family there.
“I don’t have no problem with Sulzbacher moving over there, but I’m concerned about the kids,” Prier said. “You got two schools there. You got children passing through there. As long as it’s safe for those children, I’m alright.”
Representatives for Sulzbacher, which serves Jacksonville’s homeless, said they’ve been searching for a new location for some time – in part to avoid the flooding they’ve experienced downtown.
Asked why Sulzbacher was considering the site, given its history of contamination, President and CEO Cindy Funkhouser indicated there’s no guarantee Fairfax Street will be Sulzbacher’s new home.
“We have and continue to vet properties all the time,” Funkhouser said. “I am not going to get into any of those locations. As I said, none of them has been secured.”
Those who depend on the Sulzbacher Center say they’d like to see it move somewhere without a history of contamination and pollution.