By Mathy Stanislaus
Here at EPA, we’re proud of our brownfields program, which addresses contaminated sites with a community-driven and innovative approach. We provide grants and other technical assistance to communities to plan for, assess and clean up brownfield sites. There is no better example of the flexibility a brownfield grant affords a community than the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program, which provides capital to make low- or no-interest loans and sub-grants to finance brownfields cleanup.
When these loans are repaid, the loan amount is then returned to the fund and re-loaned to other borrowers, providing an ongoing sustainable source of capital within a community for additional brownfields cleanups. The RLF program is important in brownfields cleanup and redevelopment and a central component of the brownfields program. Since the Brownfields Law was passed, we have awarded 330 RLF grants totaling more than $319 million. RLF grants account for over one-third of the total sites cleaned up under the brownfields program and are responsible for leveraging over 24,000 jobs and over $5 billion in other cleanup and redevelopment funding.
A great feature of the RLF is our ability to recognize and reward successful grantees by re-capitalizing their grants through supplemental funding as loan funds are depleted. We recently announced the re-capitalization of 31 of our highest performing RLF grantees with $13.2 million in new funds, allowing them to continue to issue loans and sub-grants to cleanup brownfields sites.
Many of these sites start as a high priority or target area for redevelopment. After going through the assessment and planning process, sites must secure cleanup funding. When used effectively, the RLF can clean up sites that would otherwise not be revitalized. Since traditional lenders can be reluctant to finance the cleanup component of a redevelopment project, the RLF can provide the critical gap financing needed to jump-start the redevelopment process. After that, the site is positioned to attract additional leveraged funding for redevelopment.
RLFs are key tool for states and regional planning commissions to target small and rural communities who don’t have the capacity to manage a brownfields grant or have the needed cleanup funding. In this way, the RLFs expand our reach into rural communities that may otherwise not receive our funding. In fact, in this recent round, 30 percent of the planned projects are in rural communities with populations under 20,000.
RLFs can also be great for urban areas, as demonstrated by the program established in Kansas City, MO. Kansas City has a rich history of revitalizing their brownfield sites – they’ve received funding from us, HUD, and the Missouri Housing Development Corporation. In this instance, the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council (INC), a nonprofit community development organization, led the effort to clean up the former Horace Mann School, a site in a historically disadvantaged neighborhood with prominent blight and health risks of asbestos, lead paint and mold. Through the use of $671,862 of brownfield assessment and RLF funds, Kansas City was able to assess and cleanup the site.
The site is now being redeveloped into various affordable housing options and a community building with a fitness center, library, pharmacy and community garden. The complete redevelopment project, named Ivanhoe Gateway at 39th Street, will cost approximately $100 million dollars. The use of the RLF funds have enabled the nearly $5 million first phase of the redevelopment project to go forward.
It’s rewarding to see how communities are leveraging the RLF funds to transform their downtowns and bring positive change to their inhabitants. We look forward to seeing what our next round of RLF recipients will accomplish.