EPA Brownfield Grants: Revitalization Supports Economic, Community Development

Brillion Iron Works Before.By Keely Campbell, PG

On May 10, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded 151 communities around the country $66,500,000 in brownfield funding through its Multipurpose, Assessment, and Cleanup (MAC) Grant program. These grants can be game-changers for the communities that receive them, supporting economic growth and job creation and providing the necessary financial boost to address the environmental, public health, and social issues that so often are a result of contaminated land. Ayres is proud to have supported applications for our community partners that resulted in $1,500,000 in EPA brownfield grants this cycle, and as we celebrate this incredible investment into our local communities, we are already looking forward to the next EPA brownfields grant application cycle, expected to open fall 2021.

Staff portrait of Ayres' Keely Campbell.

About the Expert:

Keely Campbell, PG, is a registered professional geologist and business development strategist at Ayres, focusing on grant writing and identifying opportunities for our landscape architecture, urban planning, and brownfield redevelopment experts to serve our clients.

Although writing may not start until the application cycle opens, communities should start brainstorming and organizing now. The more time you have to plan, the more efficient the application process and the more successful the grant application.

How can EPA grants help my community?

In past blogs, we’ve discussed the MAC program’s uses and objectives, why you should chase EPA funding, demystifying brownfields for communities, and how to be more competitive when pursuing grants. To set our community partners up for even more success in 2021 and beyond, let’s explore how brownfield revitalization leads to both economic and community development. You can look at these two separately as “economic development” and “community development,” but we like to think they are two sides of the same coin, and each supports and strengthens the other.

The City of Lamar, Colorado, is using an EPA grant to combine economic development with community benefits. This animation shows a redevelopment for a business expansion that also includes public space assets to draw people into the business.

If we learned anything from the past 15 months, it is that we need investments locally and regionally that produce better outcomes for more people in more places. In a post-pandemic world, investments in brownfield revitalization and redevelopment will be critical to promoting a more equitable recovery and creating more sustainable communities. Brownfield programs can do so by:

  • Promoting the reuse of idle, underutilized, and contaminated sites for job creation and increased tax revenue through business expansion; and
  • Revitalizing brownfields as public assets to create healthy, vibrant communities where people want to live, work, and play.

Attracting jobs and expanding commerce through economic development is necessary, but how lucrative will those enhancements be without the public improvements and infrastructure needed to draw in people and private investment? To truly change a place for the better, we must balance economic growth with social, cultural, and environmental needs. And the EPA encourages and supports communities to do just that.

What kind of options do EPA grants provide for recipients?

EPA Brownfield MAC grants can do so much for communities, given they allow freedom and flexibility to assess and plan for the sustainable reuse of idle, underutilized, and contaminated properties.

Community-wide assessment grants offer a full evaluation of the opportunities and limitations of the reuse of a brownfield. Exploring a site’s potential leads to efficient characterization and remediation (potentially funded by an EPA site-specific cleanup grant) and to prospectively target users of redeveloped sites. Is a mixed-use development appropriate for your priority brownfield, or is it better suited for a community park?

The City of Lamar, Colorado, is using an EPA grant to combine economic development with community benefits. This concept shows a redevelopment for a business expansion that also includes public space assets to draw people into the business.

Having the financial support of an EPA brownfield grant gives communities the resources to ask these questions and look at sites in the context of the surrounding area early in the redevelopment process, so they can experience true revitalization. When we take this more holistic approach to brownfield projects, communities can generate community development and economic development, while addressing environmental justice and the climate emergency.

Interested in a brownfield grant for your hometown? Let Ayres’ grant experts help you write your community’s next great chapter in time for the next cycle.

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