The City of Lenoir has received its second Brownfield Assessment grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this time for $500,000.
Lenoir received its first EPA Brownfield grant in 2018 in the amount of $300,000. The City used those funds to perform assessments on several commercial and industrial properties around town. Brownfield assessments are the first step to safely clean up and reuse possibly contaminated properties.
Once a property is assessed, the City has the option to apply for additional EPA funding to clean up the site. The City could also use grant funds to assist prospective buyers of these sites to enter into North Carolina’s Brownfield Program, which would provide both state liability protection and redevelopment tax incentives. Brownfield site assessments are required before developers can apply for North Carolina Brownfield Agreements. Brownfields Agreements also make these properties more financially attractive for owners and developers who are trying to redevelop and re-purpose abandoned properties.
With the first grant, the City assessed several properties including the Virginia Street property at the corner of Virginia Street and College Avenue, the old City Service Cleaners located at 1036 Harper Ave. (now owned by Liquid Roots), the Blue Bell Inc. property located at 1421 College Ave., and more.
Public Utilities Director Radford Thomas has led the Brownfield program for the City. Thomas said the second, $500K grant will allow staff to assess more commercial and industrial properties with the goal of eventually putting the sites back into productive use for the community.
"Some of the main focus of the new assessment program will be the completion of the Phase 2 assessment of the old Broyhill site on Virginia and College and the completion of the Brownfield Agreement application," Thomas said. "We will also be looking at several other locations including the old American Efird site, the old car dealership on Harper and Pennton, and the old Lenoir High School property.
The fact that staff was successful with using the first grant funds for so many assessments from 2018 to 2021 helped the City receive more funding this year.
"The EPA likes to see that the Brownfield grant money is helping put properties back into use," Thomas said. "I feel the success of the last grant program was key to our application being approved this year. I'm certain that other locations will present opportunities to assist with assessment funding."
Related: Lenoir receives 300K EPA grant NC Opportunity Zones, May 29, 2018 (PDF)