The Biden Administration, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), awarded $6.75 million in brownfield grants to five Illinois communities to address or clean up brownfields. Among them are two Fehr Graham clients, the cities of Ottawa and Rockford.
The City of Ottawa will receive a $300,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant to conduct 15 Phase I and six Phase II Environmental Site Assessments. Funds will also be used to develop four cleanup plans and support community outreach. The grant will target the City's downtown and Marquette District. Priority sites include a vacant, underused parcel that once housed repair shot shops, a waterfront property destroyed by a fire more than 20 years ago and a former glass factory.
"Ottawa has pending development projects in areas that used to have heavy industrial uses including the Downtown Waterfront," said Mayor Daniel Aussem in a news release. "We want to make sure there are no environmental issues when it is time to move forward with these sites. I am excited to have this assessment funding to move our brownfields properties forward. This will help remove a barrier and hopefully streamline redevelopment in our City."
The City of Rockford will receive a $3.9 million grant to supplement its Brownfield Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund (RLF). The additional funds will allow the City to provide more loans and grants to property owners and communities to clean up contaminated sites. RLF grants provide funding for a grant recipient to capitalize an RLF and provide loans and subgrants to carry out cleanup activities at brownfield sites. Through the grants, the EPA strengthens the marketplace and encourages stakeholders to leverage resources to clean up and redevelop brownfields. When loans are repaid, the amount is returned to the fund and is loaned again to new borrowers, providing an ongoing source of capital. Additional funds were awarded because of the success Rockford has demonstrated.
"The City of Rockford is very excited for the award of brownfields supplemental Revolving Loan Fund grant monies along with the opportunity to continue our partnership with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region V," said Rockford Mayor Thomas McNamara in a news release. "For over 20 years, Rockford's RLF Program has played a significant role in cleaning up environmentally challenged properties, paving the way for substantial reinvestment in our urban core. RLFs were a major catalyst in the development of the $24.5 million UW Health Sports Factory, the $87.5 million Embassy Suites by Hilton Rockford Riverfront Hotel & Conference Center and now the anticipated redevelopment of the Barber-Colman campus. As a result of this award, our RLF program will continue to benefit our community economically and improve overall environmental health for our residents."
The grants are supported by Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, providing $1.5 billion to advance environmental justice, spur economic revitalization and create jobs by cleaning up contaminated, polluted or hazardous brownfield properties.
Once cleaned up, brownfield sites can be redeveloped into productive uses that enhance communities. Projects can range from cleaning up buildings with asbestos or lead to assessing and cleaning up abandoned properties that may have housed industrial businesses that produced dangerous chemicals.
Biden's brownfields program advances his Justice40 Initiative, using 40% of the benefits to benefit disadvantaged communities. About 86% of the communities selected for funding proposed projects in historically underserved areas.
"Turning vacant or underutilized spaces into thriving community hubs is one of the cornerstones of our Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan, and I'm pleased to see the Biden Administration provide funding for brownfields revitalization in Will County, Chicago, Rockford, Ottawa, and west-central Illinois," said Gov. JB Pritzker in a news release. "This support marks another milestone in our journey to advance educational, environmental, economic and health justice for all Illinois residents."
Other funding grants include:
During the past 10 years, EPA has invested $17,561,820 in brownfield grants in Illinois communities. Those funds have been used to complete 579 assessments and 34 cleanups and prepare 186 properties for reuse. In addition, those grants have leveraged $254,647,291 and created 1,351 jobs.
Read the full news release here.