MFA Writes Two Winning USEPA Grants for the Cities of Spokane, WA, and St. Helens, OR

Author: Seth Otto, AICP, LEED AP Published: April 6, 2015

On March 9, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced the recipients of its 2015 Area-Wide Planning (AWP) Grant. The AWP grant program assists communities that are responding to local brownfield challenges, including multiple brownfields in close proximity and connected by infrastructure, and limitations to economic, environmental, and social prosperity. The grant provides funds to communities to enable them to conduct the research needed for development of an area-wide plan and implementation strategy for brownfield assessment, cleanup, and reuse.

The 2015 AWP Grant resulted in 20 nationwide recipients, with only two given in the Pacific Northwest Region, which consists of the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. These two grants, one for the City of Spokane and one for the City of St. Helens, were written by MFA staff. Each grant is worth $200,000.

St.Helens_0405The City of Spokane’s grant proposal focused on the Hillyard Industrial Area. This area once housed a thriving industrial center that was built around a freight railyard and included steam engine manufacturing, maintenance, and repair facilities. With fewer trains being used for freight shipment, the railyard closed in the 1960s and most of the industrial land was abandoned and left to deteriorate.

The City of Spokane’s goal for this project is to develop strategies to address legacy contamination and position the Hillyard Industrial Area for redevelopment that will lead to improvements in public health, as well as job creation and other economic opportunities. The City of Spokane intends to use the grant funds to conduct financial feasibility analyses for redevelopment, prepare a framework for providing an effective and efficient infrastructure for making properties ready for redevelopment, and put together a redevelopment strategy for the project area.

CWA Project ScopeThe City of St. Helens is a small, rural community of 13,000 residents 30 miles North of Portland. Closure of the Boise White Paper Mill and Veneer Mill in 2008 and 2012hit the local economy hard, leading to increased unemployment and to poverty rates above the state and national averages. These two mill sites encompass a total of 205.4 acres of waterfront property along the Columbia River. The city’s goals are to develop these lands for new business creation, develop transportation linkages, create public open space, and improve the quality of life for St. Helens residents. The grant funds will be used to organize community engagement activities, conduct research on the condition of the mill properties, carry out site-specific redevelopment assessments, and develop an implementation approach.

These two AWP grants are great opportunities for both cities to redevelop the brownfield sites for the greatest benefit to the surrounding communities, many of which consist of underserved populations. MFA is excited to have helped write winning USEPA grant projects and plans to continue its assistance to these cities as they develop the properties through the grant process and beyond.

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Seth Otto, AICP, LEED AP

Principal Planner