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Indy gets $1.6M from EPA to address brownfields

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Indianapolis is launching a new strategy devoted to cleaning up abandoned industrial sites and sparking development in some of the capital city's most blighted neighborhoods — an effort that initially will draw on $1.6 million in new funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Mayor Greg Ballard joined Susan Hedman, chief of the EPA's regional office in Chicago, and local officials Thursday in announcing the brownfield grants and the city's new initiative outside a weathered, long-shuttered building that once housed a heating and air conditioning operation.

Ballard said the new EPA funding would help clean up that site and others and help draw new development to the run-down neighborhood around the idled, debris-littered buildings.

"These sort of brownfields, these long-deserted sites that are often contaminated, get left behind, often wreaking havoc on neighborhoods so that blight and crime and environmental challenges replace what once was a thriving site," he said.

Hedman said Indianapolis had beat out strong competition to land a $1 million in EPA funds to create revolving loan funds to clean up hazardous substances and also petroleum productions. The city also won a $200,000 grant for planning the redevelopment and reuse of the neighborhood around the former Carrier-Bryant site that's been vacant since 2004.

Buildings at that 20-acre site have been found to contain asbestos and the site also encompasses drums and tanks containing hazardous substances, including the industrial solvent trichloroethylene.

Another $400,000 in grants will pay for conducting about 15 environmental site assessments and other remediation measures around Indianapolis.

Hedman said the city will tap its experience helping bring new shops, housing and entertainment venues to a neighborhood around a shuttered plant on Indianapolis' east side "as the model for new projects" in the United Northwest Area — the neighborhood surrounding the old Carrier-Bryant site.

Ballard said the EPA's brownfield program, which has helped clean up contaminated industrial sites and redevelop surrounding areas, will boost the city's redevelopment efforts.

"Sometime it just takes a little nugget, a little spark and the EPA has really provided that for us today," he said.

City officials also announced the creation of a new Brownfield Redevelopment office that will implement the new grants and focus on development opportunities in blighted areas near shuttered industrial sites.

The director of the city's Department of Metropolitan Development, Adam Thiese, said the new EPA grants provided "an excellent kickoff time" for that initiative, which had been in the works for a long time.

"Indianapolis has sites like this throughout many of our neighborhoods and we have to keep tackling them and keep working on them," he said.

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