ALBANY – The city of Albany and the Albany Museum of Art were jointly awarded a $1.15 million Brownfield Program Grant by the Environmental Protection Agency, city officials announced Monday.

City Manager Sharon Subadan said the art museum would utilize a $350,000 Brownfield grant to clean up heavy metals, contaminants and petroleum at the site of the former Belk Building on West Broad Avenue, while the city will utilize an $800,000 revolving loan to provide loans and grants to nonprofits involved in cleaning up and repurposing properties in underserved areas of the city.

“This award is in concert with the Board of Commissioners’ directive to reduce blight in the city,” Subadan said. “It’s part of a strategy to leverage federal dollars to bring additional resources into the city to continue development and redevelopment efforts.”

The EPA’s Brownfield Program began in 1995 and has issued nearly $1.6 billion in grants to assess, clean up and revitalize properties. The cities of Albany and Atlanta were the only Georgia cities designated to receive funding in this round of the EPA Brownfield grant awards.

Subadan said the city’s successful utilization of a previous Brownfield grant was considered in the competitive quest to attain the additional funding.

“When the funding is, like the Brownfield grants, competitive, you have to demonstrate the capacity to utilize the funding in accordance with the grant application,” Subadan said. “We successfully utilized the previous Brownfield grant to do investigative work, much of it, as a matter of fact, on the Belk Building, and that laid the stage for this latest award.”

While Brownfield grants focus primarily on environmental concerns, Subadan said the funding cannot be used for final remediation of the former gas plant on Broad Avenue that has been deemed an environmental hazard by the EPA.

“Because that property is owned by the Utilities Department, it doesn’t qualify for the Brownfield funding,” the city manager said. “But we are in the process of getting that site cleaned up.”

Brownfield sites are properties slated for redevelopment, expansion, or re-use that are or could be contaminated or polluted. There are more than 450,000 brownfields in the United States.

Keith Ziobron and Beth Norman with the the Atlanta-based Cardno Engineering consulting firm told Albany officials in a January 2019 report that they used a Brownfield Assessment Grant awarded to the city to generate generic quality assurance projects and community involvement plans and to make assessments of properties at 207 Pine Ave. (the former Water, Gas & Light Building), the former Belk Building and the former “Mule Barn” building. The latter two properties are on West Broad Avenue.

“A Brownfield site is defined as real property, the expansion, redevelopment and re-use of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances, pollutants, contaminants, controlled substances, petroleum or petroleum products, or that is mine-scarred land,” Ziobron, Cardno’s senior principal and branch manager, told city officials. “Basically, we’re talking about a site that has contamination or perceived contamination that limits the site’s redevelopment potential.”

Norman, who is a Cardno project manager, said such sites may contain asbestos, lead-based paint, mold, or “any other potential contaminants.”

The objectives of the Brownfield program, Norman noted, is to return abandoned properties to productive re-use, generate tax revenue, create jobs and support redevelopment.

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