Muskegon County awarded $500,000 EPA Brownfield Grant
MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — Another appearance from federal environmental regulators in Muskegon Wednesday morning.
The EPA and a cadre of other state and federal agencies were also on hand Tuesday evening as they announced a significant milestone: the Muskegon Lake area of concern had been fully restored following decades of work.
Wednesday, the agency presented the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce with a grant of $500,000 for use in redevelopment projects throughout the county.
Undaunted by the rain, EPA Region 5 Administrator Deborah Shore marked the second of a two-day stint in Muskegon with a walking tour through the downtown corridor.
Much of it, a former industrial hub turned brownfield site, cleaned and redeveloped using state and federal grant money.
“That’s what we hope to see through these grants,” Shore related. “A trigger, leverage for other investment in communities throughout the country, often communities that are underserved and overburdened.”
“Most of what you see here in downtown Muskegon, the new development actually started with a site assessment grant,” Cathy Brubaker-Clarke, community development strategist for Greater Muskegon Economic Development added.
The latest $500,000 installment will allow restoration work to continue and for additional projects to be taken on.
This and other brownfield site assessment grants typically work behind the scenes.
They cover or help cover the cost of necessary environmental investigations for future redevelopment projects, which in turn, the EPA said, offers added incentive for private sector investors, which would no longer have to front that money.
Additionally, the investigations shield developers from related environmental legal risks.
“This is exciting,” Muskegon Heights City Manager Troy Bell related. “Particularly with respect to Muskegon Heights, which is in dire need of economic development. This lowers the barrier to entry.”
Bell recently launched the city’s ‘Beautify the Heights, Fight the Blight’ campaign, which features monthly clean-up activities geared to curb blight and inspire civic pride.
Under the plan in place, Muskegon Heights will receive the lion’s share of those grant dollars, which will go toward laying the groundwork for targeted improvements along the Broadway Avenue corridor.
“We don’t see grants as the silver bullet to solving all of the issues, but a catalyst to bringing in private money,” Bell noted. “It’s that public private partnership that we need in order to really do the last mile.”
And the hope is, inject new life back into the city’s tax base, which has been steadily evaporating over the decades, leading to a structural deficit that complicates even routine work.
Priority projects county-wide, according to the EPA, include:
- former Sappi Pulp Paper Mill
- former Amoco Oil terminal
- former vacant Laboratory Furniture Manufacturing site
- former Lift-Tech International site
- former Bennett Pump site
- former dry cleaner at 2536 Peck St.
In total, the EPA awarded six brownfield grants last week, totaling $4-million statewide.
Author: Charlie Tinker