City of Rockford receives EPA grant to clean up downtown properties

Staff Report

ROCKFORD – The City of Rockford has received a $275,000 grant under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfield’s Program to assess and clean up two downtown properties.

Under President Trump’s administration, the EPA has delivered approximately $287 million in Brownfield grants directly to communities and nonprofits for cleanup and redevelopment, job creation, and economic development through the award of over 948 grants.

Rockford will use its award for the Rockford Watch Factory, 325 S. Madison St.; and the former Lloyd Hearing Aid building at 128 Kishwaukee St.

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“The City of Rockford is thrilled to have been awarded this cleanup grant that will allow us to continue addressing brownfields in our community,” Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said. “As one of the original US EPA Brownfields Pilot Programs in 1999, we recognize the immeasurable value of these grants as being true catalysts for successful and sustainable redevelopment. Our 21year partnership with U.S. EPA has not only benefited our community economically, but more importantly has improved livability for our residents.”

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (Illinois-17) said the funds are vital to ensure that Rockford is safe as it pushes to redevelop downtown property.

“Today’s announcement will help establish long term roots for economic success in Rockford as they look to leverage these federal dollars,” Bustos said.” I’ll keep working alongside our local community leaders so Rockford continues to be a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

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EPA Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede added: “These communities are ready to move forward with redevelopment, they just lacked the funding to take that next step. EPA’s Brownfield’s grants help jumpstart the process by providing for assessments and cleanups.”

Nationwide, this year, the agency is announcing the selection of 155 grants for communities and tribes totaling over $65.6 million in EPA brownfields funding the agency’s Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grant Programs. These funds will aid under-served and economically disadvantaged communities, including neighborhoods located in Opportunity Zones, in assessing and cleaning up abandoned industrial and commercial properties.

An Opportunity Zone is an economically-distressed community where new investment, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. Of the 151 total communities selected, 118 of these communities can potentially assess or clean up brownfield sites in census tracts designated in these zones. In addition, nearly 30% of the communities selected today will receive brownfields funding for the first time.

The EPA also awarded the cities of Chicago and Peoria each $500,000 bringing a total of more than $1.2 million in federal brownfield funding to Illinois.

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Located within a Qualified Opportunity Zone, the former Rockford Watch Factory was built in the late 19th century and has been vacant since 2014. It is contaminated with metals and inorganic contaminants.

The former Lloyd Hearing Aid building has been vacant and deteriorating for the past 13 years. Officials say soils at the site are contaminated with polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and metals.

Grants awarded by EPA’s Brownfields Program provide communities across the country with an opportunity to transform contaminated sites into community assets that attract jobs and achieve broader economic development outcomes, while taking advantage of existing infrastructure. For example, brownfields grants are shown to:

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Increase Local Tax Revenue: A study of 48 brownfields sites found that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional local tax revenue was generated in a single year after cleanup. This is two to seven times more than the $12.4 million EPA contributed to the cleanup of these sites.

Increase Residential Property Values: Another study found that property values of homes near revitalized brownfields sites increased between 5% and 15% following cleanup.

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