By Jessica Strachan
C&G Staff Writer
SOUTHFIELD — Southfield was one of several cities to recently receive a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for environmental investigations of possibly contaminated lands that are up for redevelopment.
“These grant funds will assist Southfield in identifying potential sites that can be redeveloped and put back into productive use — spurring economic growth and investment in the city,” Mayor Brenda Lawrence said in a statement. “The program also provides attractive incentives to prospective buyers and developers by covering the cost of assessments, thus reducing the risk associated with unknown environmental conditions.”
The funds are part of a $600,000 EPA Assessment Grant the Oakland County Brownfield Coalition received to conduct investigations at brownfield sites. Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Madison Heights and Pontiac also each received $60,000, with the remaining $240,000 to be distributed to other Oakland County communities.
“The federal government determined a means to encourage people to reinvest in older areas. Because a lot of those areas were contaminated, they needed some encouragement to bring redevelopment back to those areas,” explained Southfield Business Development Manager Rochelle Freeman. “These urban areas are called brownfield sites.”
A brownfield site is often the former location of an old factory or some kind of manufacturing facility, a building with asbestos or other internal issues, or those with gasoline tanks buried in the property. Michigan determines blighted areas or functionally obsolete properties to also be brownfields, according to Freeman.
“What we are going to do with the money is assist with some of the costs associated with the environmental assessment: something someone purchasing a property would want to do before buying it,” she added. “When it comes to environmental concerns, like the condition of the soil, if the property is contaminated when you purchase it, you end up buying the problem.”
Freeman said that environmental assessments can cost anywhere from $2,000 for smaller properties to $10,000 for large ones.
In 2008, Southfield received $200,000 from the EPA, which was used to conduct environmental investigations at eight sites throughout the city where investors were seeking to redevelop:
26500 Northwestern Hwy., which became 800-LawFirm
30161 Southfield Road, now McDonald’s.
22100 Telegraph Road, now Shaw Electric.
23600 Telegraph Road, now Maxitrol.
22800 W. Eight Mile Road, Advanced Auto Recyclers, currently under construction.
24541-24555 W. 12 Mile, a series of shops being proposed to the Planning Commission.
25250 Evergreen Road and the southeast adjoining parcel, the former People’s State Bank, currently in planning stages.
20830 Rutland Drive, the Adult Rehabilitation Facility, currently under construction.
Freeman said these new funds will help cover the costs of the assessment for potential redevelopers interested in a vacant plot of land in Southfield and that the funds will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
The city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, which Freeman helps administer, can also assist businesses in redeveloping vacant or underutilized industrial sites that may require environmental cleanup once the assessment is done, adding more incentive for developers, she explained.
For more information about brownfield redevelopment or other economic development opportunities in Southfield, contact Freeman at (248) 796-4161 or visit www.cityofsouthfield.com.