Economic Development, Government, and Real Estate

Ottawa leverages brownfield grants to redevelop properties

Developers are revitalizing 29 properties with support from federal funding.

October 30, 2015
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In anticipation of the upcoming application deadline for the FY2016 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfield Assessment grants, the Ottawa County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority announced it has distributed $360,000 of $400,000 in federal funding to support the redevelopment of 29 sites in the county.

David Miller, chairman of the OCBRA, said the announcement was intended to inform local units of government of the remaining $40,000 available for proposed projects on eligible properties, and also to show the organization has done a good job of expending the $360,000 in grants.

“We have a little bit of money left, but it is going pretty quick. We are actually going to apply for additional funding in the next cycle when it comes up, but that is obviously criteria from the EPA,” said Miller. “They want to see you are using the money if you are applying for more. We were putting together the report to show what the results have been. … I think the numbers are pretty startling.”

The OCBRA received two $200,000 EPA Brownfield Assessment grants in 2013, which were designated to help developers offset costs for hazardous substance and petroleum environmental site assessments. The grants are set to expire Sept. 30, 2016.

Becky Huttenga, coordinator in the Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department, indicated the reports funded under the EPA grants are Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments; Baseline Environmental Assessments, Due Care and Compliance Plans; and Brownfield Plans.

While most of the $200,000 designated for hazardous substance investigation has been distributed, Miller said there are some funds left from the $200,000 grant allocated for petroleum assessments.

The current EPA-funded projects in Ottawa County are estimated to create more than 380 permanent jobs and generate nearly $43 million in private investment when the blighted properties are redeveloped.

“Those are the kinds of metrics the EPA is looking for: They want to see the communities are using the money and leveraging it to get private investment and job creation,” said Miller.

Some of the projects include Borculo Fuel Services in Blendon Township, MS Metal Solutions in Grand Haven Township, Pere Marquette Place in Grand Haven, Village Green in Hudsonville, property at 223 N. River in Holland Township, and North Side Triangle, also in Holland Township. Other sites for planned redevelopment are in Spring Lake, Holland and Zeeland.

“When we made our application to the EPA, we gave them specific target areas where we wanted to see the funds expended and we used a lot of the money in those areas, but we have done a nice job of spreading them across Ottawa County,” said Miller.

Of the 29 hazardous substance and petroleum brownfield assessment projects underway in Ottawa County, approximately 14 will be redeveloped into office and retail space, four will be transitioned into industrial space, four will be converted for commercial use, two will be modified into residential space, two will be used for mixed use or office space, and the remaining two will be adapted into recreational or green space.

“We had a former gas station at the corner of Waverly and Beechtree in Grand Haven where they had demolished the structure, but they left the tanks in the ground and they were just sitting there for a decade,” said Miller. “Someone came along and wanted to redevelop the site again as a gas station, but there were all of these unknowns at the site. Our ability to go in and spend the assessment dollars to help characterize the site gave them the confidence to go forward with the development.”

Miller said in addition to the investment and job creation benefits, one of the “beautiful things about this program is it takes buildings that have been siting vacant for a long time (and) puts them back into productive use.”

The projects are expected to have positive impacts on the community, including blight removal, an increased tax base and improved environmental conditions.

“A lot of our projects are partially complete. … We are midstream in some of these projects, but the cycle is coming up for another application and our funds are running out,” said Miller. “I think this is just a tremendous way to leverage a little bit amount of money to redevelop some of these vacant sites.”

As of June 30, 18 projects had completed Phase I ESA reports, two had completed Phase II ESAs, one had finished a BEA and one project had completed a clean-up plan, according to the Ottawa County Brownfield Quarterly Progress Report for April through June 2015.

The OCBRA is still accepting project proposals for the remaining $40,000 and anticipates applying for a second round of financing for FY2016. The funding will be available late 2016 if the county receives another award.

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