The EPA recently announced its FY 2017 Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup grantees.
Four PM Environmental, Inc. clients were awarded. The Golden Triangle Planning and Development District and the City of Canton, Mississippi, awarded $600,000 and $300,000 respectively, and Discover Downtown Middlesboro and Sheffield Redevelopment Authority, awarded $200,000 each. PM Environmental, a national environmental consulting firm, helped each community secure funding by assisting with the brownfield plan preparation.
“The process is highly competitive, and it is a great accomplishment to secure funding,” said John Hargraves, Regional Manager for the Brownfield Group for PM Environmental, Inc. “It is a nationwide competition, with a typical award rate of 1 out of 4. In many cases, it can take multiple attempts over years to receive funding,”
For these four communities, this funding could not have come at a better time. Many have residents living below the poverty line, and new development is only occurring well outside the city limits. So, where exactly are these four communities? What are city officials planning to do with the grant money? And what significant impacts will funding like this have for the residents who live there?
Golden Triangle Planning and Development District
Formed in 1971, The Golden Triangle Planning and Development District (GTPDD) consists of seven counties and their 20 municipalities in the Northeast of Mississippi. The area has long supported manufacturing companies, from textile mills to bottling companies and equipment manufacturing; however, the last 10 years has seen a steady decline in jobs and development. While many other states were gaining opportunities, Mississippi lost 1,048 manufacturing jobs in a single year, between 2012 and 2013*.
The GTPDD chose four targeted manufacturing properties within its district, including a three-acre former Coca Cola Bottling Plant and a 73-acre former manufacturing facility. In addition the four targeted sites, approximately 21 other brownfield sites will also be considered. The $600,000 grant will assist with the environmental assessments at the four sites, as well as be used to identify additional brownfield sites, conduct cleanup planning, and support community involvement activities.
City of Canton
Canton, Mississippi, a rural city 23 miles north of the state’s capitol, Jackson, was once a thriving farming community and currently has a population of just over 13,000. The city has had its ups and downs throughout the years, experiencing success as an agricultural and commercial powerhouse in the 1800s and 1900s, followed by decades of disinvestment, blight and decay.
Canton plans to focus the funds allotted by the EPA towards the revitalization of two target areas: The historic district known as "The Hollow", which used to be the main hub for commerce, social life and entertainment for the African American community of Central Mississippi, and an unused industrial area that is flanked by residential neighborhoods. Both are in areas with a nearly 50 percent poverty rate, double that of the rate in Canton as a whole. The $300,000 will cover the costs of environmental assessments, and will identify potential contaminants that have been a leading contributor to disinvestment in both of the target areas.
Discover Downtown Middlesboro
Middlesboro, Kentucky, a city with a population of just over 10,000, is the only city in the United States that can boast about being built entirely inside of a meteor crater. It was also a main thoroughfare for western expansion in the late 1700s, with the famous Daniel Boone travelling through the area. In recent times, however, the city has experienced more hardships than most. Identified in 2013 by The New York Times as the “hardest place to live in America”, Middlesboro lost 8,000 coal mining jobs in 2011, resulting in high levels of unemployment and poverty, and has one of the highest rates of chronic disease in the country.
Discover Downtown Middlesboro, Inc. (DDM), a nonprofit organization, has gone to great lengths to restore and revitalize the downtown area. With the $200,000 EPA cleanup grant, DDM has elected to restore what was once The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks Home, a grand building in the heart of downtown that once housed members of a national fraternity dedicated to charity. The grant will assist in the cleanup of environmental contamination that has resulted from decades of neglect on the property, and help redevelop it into community asset.
Sheffield Redevelopment Authority
Located on the southern banks of the Tennessee River sits the city of Sheffield, Alabama. Once a thriving industrial city with multiple lumber, metal, and aluminum manufacturing sites, nearly one-quarter of the population of 9,000 lives at or below the poverty level and unemployment is almost double the National rate.
In 2013, the city received an EPA Assessment Grant, which spurred a large redevelopment project of several blighted areas, most notable that of Inspiration Landing, a project in which PM has been heavily involved. This new $200,000 cleanup grant will assist in the redevelopment of Lady Ensley, an area of land that adjoins Inspiration Landing. Just over 60 acres, Lady Ensley has been the site of a former blast furnace for pig iron, an unregulated dump and a shooting range. Thus, layers of contamination exist on the property and have hindered the developer’s ability to move forward with this portion of the project. The cleanup grant will focus on the contaminated soil and groundwater, abandoned drums, removal of debris, and the stabilization and removal of contaminated portions of stockpiled soil. Following cleanup of the Lady Ensley, the site will result in the development of a hotel, event space, greenspace, retail and residential buildings.
Four communities diverse in location, but all sharing a common need for revitalization and redevelopment. Each project has the potential to not only reshape the future of the cities themselves, but also of the residents who live there. A great deal of thought, planning, and understanding of the needs of the community have gone into each of these plans to ensure the best possible outcomes.
* Source: Mississippi Manufacturers Register