Administrator Wheeler Tours Brownfields Sites in Little Rock, Ark.
LITTLE ROCK (November 19, 2020) — Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler and EPA Regional Administrator Ken McQueen toured Brownfields sites along the "Creative Corridor" transforming four neglected blocks of Main Street in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas thanks to historic tax credits and EPA Brownfields funding.
“Region 6’s Brownfields program is creating a renaissance in downtown Little Rock through its assessment and clean-up grants,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “EPA is proud of the environmental and redevelopment work it is doing in Arkansas and there is still more to do.”
“We are proud of our work to support our state partners to rebuild contaminated sites while revitalizing the economy,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ken McQueen. “We are transforming sites and communities, one project at a time. EPA will continue to provide technical assistance and grant funding to turn impacted sites into assets.”
Administrator Wheeler also participated in the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Quest Science Award event at Little Rock Central High School. The Quest Science Award showcases the next generation’s quest for advancements in environmental protection and sustainable energy.
On the Brownfields tour, Administrator Wheeler and Regional Administrator McQueen were joined by Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment Secretary Becky Keogh, Arkansas Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee Chair Missy Irvin, Arkansas House Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee Chair Jack Ladyman, Pulaski County elected officials, and staff from the Department of Energy and Environment, Senator John Boozman, Senator Tom Cotton, and Rep. French Hill (AR-02).
The Creative Corridor brings arts and culture to anchor a vibrant, mixed-use development in the center of the capital city's downtown area. Administrator Wheeler and Regional Administrator McQueen visited six projects that used EPA Brownfields Assessment and Revolving Loan Fund grants awarded to the Pulaski County Brownfields program totaling over $4 million. In the last four years, EPA has awarded over $900,000 in Brownfields grants to state and local entities in Arkansas. All of those grants selected to entities in Arkansas can potentially spend their grant funding in an Opportunity Zone.
“I am excited about the progress of the EPA’s revitalization project in the historic downtown area of Little Rock. Thanks to historic tax credits and funding from the EPA Brownfields Program, four blocks along Main Street, the ‘Creative Corridor,’ are being redeveloped for commercial use, attracting new investment opportunities, creating jobs, and generating sources of local revenue,” said U.S. Congressman French Hill (AR-02). “This influx of economic activity will greatly benefit the city of Little Rock and Pulaski County. I would like to thank EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Regional Administrator Ken McQueen, and the EPA for their ongoing commitment to central Arkansas.”
“This is an excellent example of state and federal partnerships working together to create environmental solutions. EPA’s Brownfields funding will bring abandoned and potentially contaminated properties back to beneficial use. This is a win-win for Arkansas in that we can improve the environment while spurring both economic and community development in the process,” said Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Becky W. Keogh. “It is great to see the tremendous enthusiasm and ingenuity from today’s youth. Their ideas and inventions will have a lasting impact for future generations. We applaud Surabhee’s innovative project for sustainable management of freshwater resources.”
One site on the Brownfields tour was K Lost / Gus Blass Building, a former Department Store and warehouse that had been vacant for more than 25 years. The site has been remediated to remove asbestos, lead-based paint, and biological waste and redeveloped into a sports bar and apartment complex.
The 500 block of Main Street, where an almost $1 million Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund was infused to revitalize approximately 250,000 square feet of vacant property. This site, which includes the Capitol Main Historic District, was once the commercial core of the city in the early to mid-twentieth century. Using Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup dollars in concert with leverage private sector investment, these city blocks have been redeveloped into a barbershop, law practice, Arkansas ballet, jewelry shop, and loft apartments. They also saw a pilot project collecting storm water on sidewalks to mitigate flooding.
The last site on the tour – the Hall Building – is the most recent success story for Region 6’s Pulaski County Brownfields program. The $393,657 Brownfields loan leveraged approximately $3.15 million in private sector funding to transform this site, which sat empty as recently as 2018. Listed on the National Historic Registry, the Hall Building was originally used as office space for the Arkansas Fire Prevention Bureau, insurance companies, and dental practices. It has since been redeveloped into a 114-room hotel, which opened in Summer 2020.
Under President Trump, EPA has delivered approximately $287 million in Brownfields grants directly to communities and non-profits in need. In Fiscal Year 2020, 151 communities were selected to receive 155 grants totaling $65.6 million in EPA Brownfields funding through our Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grants. Of the selected communities, 118 can potentially assess or clean up brownfield sites in census tracts designated as federal Opportunity Zones.