The Port announces a new source of cleanup funding for former manufacturing sites

Transforming contaminated sites into community assets: Cincinnati Port learns it is to receive $800,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2020 grant to seed Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund

CINCINNATI – The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority (The Port) said its application for funding under an innovative U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant program has been selected and it will receive $800,000 to capitalize a revolving loan fund program to support cleaning up large-scale urban industrial sites located in communities in or near Hamilton County’s I-75/Mill Creek Corridor.

U.S. EPA on May 6, 2020, announced its selection of 155 grants for communities and tribes nationwide totaling over $65.6 million in U.S. EPA brownfields funding through three programs: Assessment; Revolving Loan Fund; and Cleanup Grant.

The Port is the only Ohio recipient of a Revolving Loan Fund grant. Among all of the Midwestern states that comprise U.S. EPA’s District 5, just The Port and two Wisconsin organizations will receive Revolving Loan Fund grants.

The Port in 2019 formally requested Revolving Loan Fund program funding through an extensive application that cited: Hamilton County’s compelling need for access to site clean-up funds; The Port’s long-standing relationship with U.S. EPA and demonstrated success managing environmental remediation projects; and The Port’s public finance platform that attracts and leverages funding to accelerate neighborhood and industrial redevelopment.

“We are very fortunate to now have in Hamilton County this new source of flexible funding to continue the work of cleaning up former manufacturing sites in order to create opportunities for redevelopment and new job creation,” said Laura Brunner, The Port’s President and CEO. “Remediation dollars are hard to come by, and many communities have long experienced the negative effects from former industrial properties sitting idle, with no good redevelopment prospects in sight.”

Brunner says The Port has a pipeline of projects teed up that will benefit from this new loan program and from its ability to leverage funding from a variety of partners and programs, including JobsOhio, The Port’s Patient Capital Note program, Ohio Abandoned Gas Station Cleanup Fund, Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corp., Duke Energy’s Ohio Site Readiness Program, and philanthropic and impact grants.

The Port will manage and market the revolving loan fund program under The Port’s Industrial Revitalization practice, led by Melissa Johnson, Executive Vice President.

“We are especially excited about this funding award because it gives us a new resource to deploy against what is often the most difficult, costly and critical aspect of urban development -- site cleanup and structure demolition,” Johnson says. “Going after this award and winning it in such a competitive environment is what I consider to be a highlight of The Port’s 10-year partnership with EPA. We are honored by the trust they have in us to administer this program.”

COMPETITIVE PROCESS: The Port wins federal grant with strategic, community-driven approach to industrial revitalization, public finance, and community engagement

In its successful application, The Port was able to demonstrate key requirements of Revolving Loan Fund eligibility:

  • Vision for cleanup;
  • Reuse and redevelopment of brownfield sites;
  • Strategy for leveraging resources to help accomplish the vision;
  • The environmental, social, health and economic needs and benefits of the target area;
  • Strong community engagement;
  • Eligible tasks and appropriate use of grant funding;
  • The capacity for managing and successfully implementing the cooperative agreement.

STRONG PARTNERSHIPS: The Port has administered 2010 & 2017 EPA brownfield assessment grants

Throughout its history, The Port has been very successful at attracting and managing federal and state grant money that assists the cleanup and redevelopment of industrial brownfield sites for a range of municipal and private development partners. The Port’s success in managing a $1,000,000 U.S. EPA Communitywide Assessment grant (2010) and $300,000 Communitywide Assessment grant (2017) represent measurable progress to redevelop and create new value from Hamilton County’s vacant, blighted, contaminated land. In 2018, The Port and EPA finalized the cooperative agreement for the $300,000 brownfields assessment grant and began marketing it to developers and communities with eligible sites. Communitywide hazardous substances grant funds are being used to conduct eight Phase I and four Phase II environmental site assessments and create three cleanup plans. Projects funded by the grant through 2018 include a Pleasant Ridge neighborhood business district project, and an 8.3-acre site redevelopment that complements the City of Loveland’s downtown district and industrial park.

COMMUNITIES IN NEED: Along Hamilton County’s I-75 corridor, there are hundreds of acres of former manufacturing sites -- complicated by the presence of hazardous substances and contaminants -- that continue to negatively impact environmental justice communities

Aerial view of former Dow Chemical in Reading Ohio

Aerial view of former Dow Chemical plant in Reading Ohio. Photo by: AHMedia Design

In Reading, Ohio, remains of the shuttered Dow Chemical plant sit on 25 acres. When Dow closed in 2014, it meant the loss of 230 jobs and a $4 million payroll. Reading estimates it has lost $80,000 annually in earnings taxes and $50,000 annually in water revenues. To redevelop and market the site, there would first have to be asbestos abatement, environmental remediation, demolition of existing structures, and site grading. The Port estimates the budget for redevelopment at approximately $7 million. It purchased the site in November 2019. In its funding application to U.S. EPA, The Port called out Reading and the Dow project as compelling needs for funding.

Linda Fitzgerald is a long-time economic development consultant to Reading. “Approval of this grant brings us one step closer to transforming this underutilized Brownfield into a tax-generating asset and allows us to continue our excellent relationships with The Port and U.S. EPA,” she says.

About The Port: The Port is a real estate development and financing organization that initiates complex projects to reposition and increase the value of property in order to best serve the economic and social wellbeing of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. More information is available at www.cincinnatiport.org.