Atlanta outlines efforts to redevelop brownfield sites with EPA funds

Atlanta officials and geologists are discussing how a new trove of federal funds can fuel improvements in some of the city’s most blighted areas.

President Joe Biden’s recently enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law paved the way for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to award Atlanta a $3.9 million Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) grant in May.

The funds go into effect this month, and Atlanta wants to give loans to property owners and grants to nonprofits willing to cleanup brownfields — land unfit for redevelopment due to potential pollution, such as former gas stations or industrial sites.

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The city puts its EPA funds into transforming vacant and abandoned properties into recreation space, health facilities, commercial opportunities, and housing. Atlantic Station, the Beltline and Pullman Yards are examples of brownfield cleanup and redevelopment projects in Atlanta.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said the new funds will support Biden’s efforts to spur sustainable, equitable investments into disadvantaged communities and areas overburdened by pollution.

“We are committed to investing EPA brownfield funding within the city of Atlanta and keenly in those areas that have been underserved for years,” Dickens said.

Speaking Tuesday during the Georgia Brownfield Association’s meeting at the Atlanta law firm Morris, Manning & Martin, the mayor said for-profit and nonprofit developers cannot get bogged down with red tape as they work to turn community eyesores into assets. Dickens also said he wants to see more affordable housing and amenities in the city through this program.

The city is already working with Focus Community Strategies to redevelop a south Atlanta site. Using the brownfield funding, Dickens said that area will provide future affordable housing, retail and a restaurant.

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The city is also planning to seek more EPA grant funding to redevelop the city-owned Chattahoochee Brick Company site. The plan is to transform it into a 75-acre park with a memorial to the prison inmates — mostly Black men — because they endured abuse working on the land through the state’s convict leasing program.

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“This is not a new idea,” said Groundwork Atlanta Executive Director Heather Hussey-Coker. “This is something the community has been interested in and been rallying around for quite a long time, the idea of having public access to this major environmental system, our river.”

Atlanta City Planning Department Assistant Director Jessica Lavandier said the city has five years to use its new RLF grant. She urged people to visit to learn how they can participate.

“It’s a really easy program,” Lavandier said.