Brownfield Grants Fund Redevelopment of Abandoned, Contaminated Properties

The west side of Grand Rapids is looking up these days.

A blighted area is about to make way for a five-story building that will include 44 affordable apartments and a restaurant on the ground floor. A $330,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to the Grand Rapids Brownfield Redevelopment Authority will pay for environmental investigation and cleanup of the contaminated site where the former Red Lion restaurant – closed since 2004 – now stands.

Brownfields are vacant or abandoned commercial or industrial properties with known or suspected environmental contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month announced that $15.7 million in supplemental funding will be offered to communities to assist them in the cleanup of these contaminated properties.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said brownfield grants that restore toxic land to beneficial use provide the resources to not only improve public health, but spur economic growth. Local agencies can tap into funds to carry out these cleanup and redevelopment projects on GrantWatch. Grants for the environment can also be used in the cleanup.

Congress recently passed legislation to speed and ease the process for revamping these abandoned sites. For one, eligibility for EPA grants to assess and cleanup brownfield sites has been expanded to include nonprofits as well as businesses. Plus, to ensure more land will be returned to use, funding has also been raised to as much as $500,000 for each application. Redevelopment of one acre can cost some $250,000.

The redevelopment project in Grand Rapids is expected to cost more than $11 million but help to create 55 new jobs. Atlantic City Mayor, Frank Gilliam, who has been working to remove barriers for new development along sections of the beach, said environmental assessments can cost thousands of dollars. His city is fortunate to have received grant funds to cover these costs. Gilliam believes programs that promote mix-use will encourage other developers to bring their projects to Atlantic City.

Residents in the Northern Michigan town of Grayling have been beset with concerns about their drinking water since per fluorinated chemicals were found near an airfield around Lake Margrethe. The state has been providing residents that live near the site with clean water and filters. But, residents of Grayling can be exposed to these hazards by not only drinking water. Wind can carry contamination as well.

Erich Podjaske, the zoning and economic development administrator in Grayling, hopes a brownfield grant will be the impetus to bring more people downtown. Local developers plan to create both commercial space and apartments that are critical to small communities like Grayling.

Dave Vargo, who owns Paddle Hard Brewing down the street from the brownfield site proposed for redevelopment, hopes the project will benefit business and the rest of downtown Grayling. Without the $454,000 grant, Grayling officials say, the cleanup and redevelopment project would have been a challenge.

Nonprofits, small businesses, entrepreneurs and concerned citizens frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants to cleanup the environment including brownfield sites can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.comSign-up to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com