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Project Highlights - Community-wide Assessment Grants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Brownfields Program is designed to empower states, communities, and other stakeholders to work together in a timely manner to prevent, assess, safely cleanup, and sustainably reuse brownfields. Thousands of properties have been assessed and cleaned up through the Brownfields Program, clearing the way for their reuse. PM Environmental has assisted numerous municipalities in successfully applying for Brownfield Multi-purpose, Assessment, and Cleanup (MAC) grants from the EPA, and has served as the technical consultant for several municipalities in implementing and managing these grantsCheck out these recent EPA Community-wide Assessment Grant project highlights.

Columbia, Tennessee

The city of Columbia, Tennessee is home to just over 38,000 people. The former farming town, situated along the south bank of the Duck River in middle Tennessee, was at one time a major site of phosphate mining. As time went on and land fertility decreased, so too did the reserves in the phosphate mines resulting in the closure of the city’s largest employer. When the 2008 financial crisis occurred, General Motors, the city’s other largest employer, was forced to lay off thousands of workers. The city, which relied heavily on property taxes as a source of revenue, saw businesses and people move beyond the city limits, providing no benefit to city tax rolls. 

Saddled with a scattering of vacant industrial buildings throughout its downtown, many of which contained unknown contaminants and/or other hazardous building materials, the city retained PM Environmental to assist in the completion of an EPA Community-wide Assessment Grant. The grant was successfully awarded in the amount of $300,000, with $200,000 to be used to assess hazardous substances and $100,000 to assess sites impacted by petroleum. 

The city of Columbia plans to target its downtown and adjacent neighborhoods, and implement a new, flexible zone to create an Arts District that will focus on Columbia’s history and culture. Five specific target areas have been selected including the A.J. Morton Funeral Home, which has sat vacant since the business ceased operations in the 1990s, and a former tobacco warehouse, chosen based on its size and proximity to low income and high minority populations, as well as its location as an eastern gateway into the downtown. 

“The city of Columbia has been focused for several years on applications for this funding.  This was the only application funded in the State of Tennessee for the year. There are engaged leadership and citizens, which will drive a successful program,” said Hargraves.

Florence, Alabama

Nestled on the northern banks of the Tennessee River sits the city of Florence, Alabama. It boasts not only a prime position on the Tennessee River, but also the presence of the University of North Alabama (UNA) and close proximity to the cities of Nashville, Memphis and Birmingham. 

With the 2008 recession and the loss of some of the city's biggest employers, Florence, and particularly West Florence, has seen an increase in abandoned and blighted properties. The gateway to downtown for this side of the city, the Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital (ECMH) closed in 2018 in conjunction with the construction of a new hospital on the city’s east side. The ECMH was built in the early 1900s and had been an anchor for the surrounding diverse neighborhoods in the area. The hospital’s demolition left a void, one that the city of Florence is hopeful to remake into a centerpiece for the area.

PM Environmental was retained by the city to assist with economic incentives consulting. PM wrote a successful EPA Community-wide Assessment Grant which resulted in an award amount of $300,000. The funds will be split between assessing hazardous substances and petroleum. Additionally, the grant will pay for the planning and reimagining of the ECMH site, as well as other environmental assessment needs for property transfer. Other properties in the West Florence area may also be added to the program for environmental assessment. 

“Florence’s planning department has used the EPA brownfield program in the past and knew that the ECMH property was a great candidate,” said John Hargraves, National Manager – Brownfield and Economic Incentives at PM. “This is the only assessment grant application funded in the State of Alabama for the year. The site re-visioning will be a key part to successful redevelopment of the property.”