City receives $2 million from EPA to redevelop north side brownfields

In part because of its successful track record in cleaning up blighted brownfields, the City of Milwaukee will receive another $2 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for assessment and cleanup of three blighted properties on the city’s north side.

One of the tools used by the Redevelopment Authority is the brownfields revolving loan fund, which provides low-interest loans and grants for cleanup of contaminated sites. Over the past six years, the city has secured an average of $1 million per year from the EPA for the revolving loan fund in order to leverage redevelopment of eight former brownfield sites.

Two of the three north side properties are located in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor, where the City of Milwaukee is working with local, state and federal partners on a plan to redevelop the area, similar to the long-range efforts that went into the revitalization of the Menomonee Valley.

 “In the 30th Street Industrial Corridor, a number of industrial businesses existed there many years ago,” said Dave Misky, assistant executive director of the Redevelopment Authority. “They have moved on, and are left in blighted condition. We will go out and drill holes, and assess the property.”

The 30th Street Industrial Corridor project area boundary is Hampton Avenue south to Highland Boulevard, and North 27th Street west to North 35th Street. The targeted area is home to businesses such as Harley-Davidson, Master Lock, Miller Brewing, A.O. Smith, and a host of others.

The three brownfield properties that will receive funding include:

  • 31st and Galena –  $200,000 will be used for cleaning up the soil and groundwater contamination that might exist at this site, where the buildings were previously removed. The primary business was an old industrial laundromat, which means that volatile organic compounds such as perchloroethylene are likely present in the soil. Redevelopment could materialize in the form of single-family housing, or a multigenerational residential development.
  • 2055 N. 30th Street – The city foreclosed on this 1.5-acre tax delinquent brownfield in 2007, and removed four underground storage tanks. Due to size limitations, the site could be used for urban agriculture.
  • 104 E. Nash Street – Located in the Riverworks area and considered the city’s original brownfield, the site formerly housed an electroplating facility and has been vacant and blighted since the city foreclosed on the property 20 years ago. Due to the great extent of contamination, development is not currently possible, so the grant will be used for soil excavation and planting trees that will help remove soil and groundwater contamination. A brownfield across the street was remediated and used to expand Medovations, a longtime central city business.

The EPA grants include $1 million for the brownfields revolving loan fund, $600,000 for cleanup of the three brownfields, and $400,000 for cleanup assessments.

“Unfortunately, we have a lot of brownfields in the community,” Misky said. “We have responded with a really good team approach, with five people who focus on securing these grants and also using these grants. The EPA likes to see that the money has been well spent. We have been able to show that we have done it, and that makes the EPA look good in the process.”

A significant part of the Redevelopment Authority’s success has been the ability to leverage the federal funds to clean up the environment, and ultimately create jobs.

“It provides this gap financial piece that leverages an awful lot of dollars long-term,” Misky said. “Developers have low interest gap financing, and we get a development on a brownfield. So we can get that money back and apply it to other future developments.”

Since 2002, the Redevelopment Authority has secured more EPA grant funds than any U.S. city, for a total of $13.7 million, with half of that amount going to the revolving loan program, Misky said.

The city has made these low-interest loans to fund eight different brownfield developments that include:

  • Redevelopment of the former Ampco Foundry at 1745 S. 38th St. into the Stadium Business Park, which is used for light industrial businesses, attracting 200 jobs and four businesses.
  • Conversion of the former Kramer Foundry at 140 S. First St. into affordable housing, retail and office space. The project created 213 jobs, and 60 new units of affordable housing.
  • Redevelopment of a former railroad yard in the Menomonee Valley into the Valley Industrial Center, which, when fully built out, is expected to be home to 1,200 new jobs. The project, which includes a park that manages stormwater, is nationally recognized as a model for sustainable development. 

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