Lynchburg Wins 2015 EPA Brownfields Assessment Grants

Midtown Neighborhood, Lynchburg, VA

The Midtown neighborhood is a tree-lined, historic area in Lynchburg, Virginia.

On May 28, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced 147 recipients of over $5.3 million in FY15 brownfields assessment and cleanup grants. Only one North Carolina and four Virginia localities received assessment grant funding this year, and two municipalities that Draper Aden Associates worked with to write and file grant applications were winners—Lynchburg, Virginia, and Princeton, North Carolina. Over the next two weeks, we will highlight each of these successful EPA brownfields assessment grants and explore what each locality hopes to accomplish with their funding.

Miller Park, Lynchburg, VA

A city heralded in the 19th century as the “Pittsburgh of the South,” Lynchburg was once one of the wealthiest cities in the United States per capita. Industry and invention led the city towards boom, but that same industry eventually fizzled and left large chunks of the city abandoned and in disrepair. Much of the former glory of Lynchburg can be seen in the city’s Midtown neighborhood, an area anchored by Miller Park (dedicated in 1862) and bordered by Park, Fort, and Memorial Avenues. Former factories and repair stations dot the mainly residential neighborhood, and, on a bright summer day, it’s easy to imagine the graceful tree-lined streetcar suburb that Midtown once was. Today, however, the neighborhood is a little rough around the edges and in need of revitalization.

The Lynchburg Economic Development Authority (EDA) worked with Lori Kroll (DAA-Blacksburg), Community Resource Specialist, KarenESAPhase1 - editto develop and file a proposal for two EPA Brownfields Community-Wide Assessment grants for 2015. In winning these grants, the Lynchburg EDA now holds $400,000 at their disposal to kick-start redevelopment in the Midtown area. Funding dedicated to the assessment of sites potentially impacted by hazardous substances ($200,000) and petroleum ($200,000) will be used to prepare a site inventory and database, conduct Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments, and conduct clean-up/redevelopment planning and community engagement activities.

Miller Park, Lynchburg, VA

“This project will help us gain a better understanding of the real conditions of selected sites in Midtown,” said Marjette Upshur, Lynchburg Economic Development Director. “It will help to proactively begin beneficial re-use of these increasingly underutilized properties. With the revitalization of this area, the City can experience economic growth through reinvestment, greater employment opportunities, reduced environmental threats, and an enhanced quality of life.”

In addition to completing site assessments, the Lynchburg EDA will actively seek community engagement through neighborhood meetings and the creation of a community stake holder group comprised of local citizens who will help craft redevelopment goals. As Marjette explained, “These grants will provide essential resources necessary to continue the City’s ongoing commitment to transforming a former vibrant Lynchburg area that has fallen into a state of disrepair to the thriving commercial and residential area it once was.”

Allen-Morrison Site, Lynchburg, VA2015 is not the first time that the city won an EPA brownfields grant—in fact, in 2008 the Allen-Morrison Site in the Fort Mill neighborhood received $25,000 for a brownfields sustainability project. A former manufacturing site located behind City Stadium, the City plans to develop the abandoned area into a public park. The 2008 EPA funding helped the City complete necessary environmental assessments for the park project to move forward.

Considering at the success of this year’s grant applications, Lori Kroll commented, “These are extremely competitive grants. The EPA certainly considered Lynchburg’s past performance with similar funds, and that may have made all the difference”—and the difference that this EPA funding will make on the midtown neighborhood should not be underestimated.

To learn more about economic development in Lynchburg, visit Opportunity Lynchburg.