The Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded grants to Oklahoma City and Tulsa for the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfield sites. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses how the EPA defines a brownfield site, the history of the program in OKC and how communities across the nation are benefiting from the grants.
Katelyn Howard: This is the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Katelyn Howard, and with me is Journal Record editor Russell Ray. It's great to have you here today, Russell.
Russell Ray: Thanks for having me.
Howard: The Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded grants to Oklahoma City and Tulsa for the cleanup and redevelopment of under used and abandoned industrial and commercial properties. Your reporter Brian Brus writes that this is part of the EPA's Brownfields Program which is intended to help underserved and economically disadvantaged communities. According to the agency's website, a study of 48 brownfield sites found that about $29 million to $97 million in additional local tax revenue was generated just one year after cleanup. Can you first explain how the EPA defines a brownfield site?
Ray: Well, a brownfield is any site that is polluted or contaminated and is in need of cleanup before it can be properly redeveloped. According to the EPA, there are more than 450,000 brownfield locations nationwide.
Howard: Oklahoma City received a grant for $300,000 and Tulsa received one for $500,000. How will this money be used in these communities?
Ray: Well in Tulsa, the money will be used to get rid of the asbestos in an air force building at Tulsa International Airport. In Oklahoma City, the money will be used for cleanup in the Core to Shore area between downtown and the Oklahoma River. The OKC money will also be used to fund assessments of petroleum brownfields in the city.
Howard: And Brian writes that the Oklahoma grants are part of a broader series of awards announced across the nation.
Ray: That's right. About 150 communities across the country will receive more than $64 million in EPA brownfields funds this year. About 40% of the communities receiving these funds this year are getting the assistance for the very first time. According to the EPA, these grants have been used to leverage 150,120 jobs and more than $28 billion in public and private funding.
Howard: Now this isn't the first time Oklahoma City has received a brownfields grant. Since 2006, the city has used these grants for more than 100 public and private redevelopment projects.
Ray: That's right. The latest grants bring the total investment to more than $10 million. Other notable projects in Oklahoma City include the 21c Hotel, Sunshine Cleaners building, the Bricktown Fire House, the Paige Woodson Development and the Skirvin Hilton Hotel.
Howard: Another example of a brownfields project in Oklahoma City is The Steelyard mixed-use retail and apartment complex. Can you tell us more about this?
Ray: Well, last year Cornerstone Development developer Gary Brooks said the city's Brownfield Revolving Loan program and an extensive amount of technical support helped incentivize him to revitalize the former steel yard complex in Bricktown, which is located at 505 E. Sheridan Ave.
Howard: Russell Ray is editor of The Journal Record. Thanks for your time today, Russell.
Ray: My pleasure, Katelyn. Thank you.
Howard: KGOU and The Journal Record collaborate each week on the Business Intelligence Report. You can follow us both on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @JournalRecord and @KGOUnews. You'll find links to the stories we discussed during this episode at JournalRecord.com. And this conversation, along with previous episodes of the Business Intelligence Report are available on their website, KGOU.org. While you're there, you can check out other features and podcasts produced by KGOU and our StateImpact reporting team. This includes the latest Capitol Insider report about how Governor Kevin Sitt has decided to replace the head of the Department of Human Services with Justin Brown, the CEO of a company that owns assisted living facilities in Oklahoma and neighboring states. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I'm Katelyn Howard.
The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.
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