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Published in Economic Development

EPA issues $900K in grants to assess Southwest Michigan brownfields

BY Monday, May 17, 2021 04:54pm

Kalamazoo County and the Southcentral Michigan Planning Council are receiving a total of $900,000 in federal grants to assess commercial and industrial brownfield properties.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the funding, which includes $300,000 for the county and $600,000 for the Southcentral Michigan Planning Council (SMPC). Grant recipients will use the funding to investigate the environmental condition of abandoned industrial and commercial properties that have been targeted for redevelopment. The SMPC serves communities in Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties.

The EPA also announced grants to Tuscola County for $600,000 and Marquette County for $300,000 to fund brownfield work, bringing the statewide total to $1.8 million. 

“This funding will help continue the momentum we’re building in Michigan to create wins for both the environment and economic development,” Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, said in a statement. “We’re pleased that these communities — from the Thumb of Michigan to West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula — are getting resources they need to thrive.”

The Kalamazoo County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority will use its grant to help identify and investigate brownfield properties in the Northside neighborhood of Kalamazoo. Sites being considered for redevelopment include a former boiler house that is currently a multi-purpose training facility, a former contractor’s warehouse, a former gas station, and a historic general store. 

“The Kalamazoo County Brownfield Authority is on a path to make significant improvements at formerly contaminated and blighted properties in Kalamazoo County thanks to this new and past EPA brownfield assessment grant,” Brownfield Redevelopment Authority Chairperson Kenneth Peregon said in a statement. “The economic stability and improved health that the redevelopment of these properties will provide is significant for our community,”

Today’s announcement marks Kalamazoo County’s third brownfield assessment grant and the first for the Southcentral Michigan Planning Council. 

EPA funds received in 2006 and 2016 by Kalamazoo County were used to investigate 27 properties — 19 of which have been cleared for redevelopment. Private investment at these sites is currently more than $27 million while more than 500 jobs have been created or retained, according to a release from the EPA. 

The Southcentral Michigan Planning Council plans to use the funding for environmental investigations along the US-12 corridor as well as the historic downtown of Homer in Calhoun County. Specific properties under consideration include a lumber yard along the banks of the Sauk River and the West Main block in Homer, where several aging multi-story commercial and mixed-use buildings once housed tin shops, cabinet shops and other operations that likely used a variety of chemicals. 

Addressing the environmental conditions of these properties will help reverse the economic conditions of post-industrial stagnation, community disinvestment and unemployment, according to Southcentral Michigan Planning Council Chairperson Vince Carahaly.

“This grant will help to breathe new life into overlooked areas in our region that deeply need redevelopment and revitalization but often miss out on funding opportunities,” Carahaly said. “Our focused work with coalition partners will place the target areas of the US-12 corridor in Coldwater and the Village of Homer into a position of readiness to become safe and healthy modern economic hubs.” 

Nationally, a total $65.5 million will be awarded to 151 grantees to help underserved and economically disadvantaged communities across the country assess and clean up contaminated and abandoned industrial and commercial properties. About half of the selected recipients are receiving EPA brownfields grants for the first time, and more than 85 percent are located in or serving small communities.

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