Waynesboro wants to shed its image of an "old industrial town," and prove itself as a city ready for 21st century growth. A pair of federal grants could go a long way to helping Waynesboro realize that potential.
The city is already working to breathe new life into former industrial sites like the Old Crompton Mills, and the vacant ice plant. Waynesboro hopes to build on that momentum with a pair of "brownfields" grants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Waynesboro has dozens of former industrial buildings, vacant warehouses and defunct business sites, just waiting for redevelopment. But potential investors may be wary of the environmental risk.
Shawn Garvin, a regional administrator with the EPA, said, "One of the impediments to being able to put those back into productive use, is people's fear about what's on the land, and what they be may signing up for if they decide to build or redevelop."
The $400,000 in "brownfields" grants from the EPA will help Waynesboro study at least 17 properties in the downtown district and the Main Street corridor. They'll document which sites may be tainted by fuels or hazardous waste, and what it would cost to clean them up.
Waynesboro City Planner Michael Barnes said, "By taking that one barrier out - the potential of the unknown about the environmental contamination - taking that out of play and making it known, will help level that aspect of the playing field."
The city hopes this effort will coincide with parks projects, downtown streetscape and facade improvements, to create a "tipping point" in the next couple of years.
Barnes said, "Around 2014, we'll be at critical mass. It'll create a momentum for change in downtown... where enough things are going on that people want to come in and invest because things are happening in downtown Waynesboro."
The EPA says "brownfields" projects across the country help neighbors by rehabbing blighted properties and protect green spaces from needlessly being turned into commercial or industrial sites.
Press Release United States Environmental Protection Agency
EPA Grant Aids Waynesboro Downtown Redevelopment
PHILADELPHIA (Oct. 1, 2012) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced $400,000 in funding to the City of Waynesboro, Va. to help assess the clean up needed for contaminated properties that will lead to potential redevelopment. These are the first EPA brownfields funds awarded to Waynesboro, and also the first in Augusta County.
"I'm pleased to present Waynesboro this $400,000 grant to assess 17 potentially contaminated sites for clean up," said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. "This new funding will support the next step in Waynesboro's downtown revitalization plan, leading to the cleanup and eventual reuse of brownfields that will encourage private investment and the creation of new jobs in the local community."
Garvin was joined by Waynesboro Mayor Bruce Allen, Michael Barnes the Director of Planning and other members of the community who have been actively involved in the city's 2010 Downtown Revitalization Plan. Under that plan, Waynesboro - with support from state and federal agencies and local cash matches, has made substantial headway in improving infrastructure including adding streetscapes, improving parks and retrofitting stormwater and storm sewers.
EPA's award includes two $200,000 brownfields grants, one for sites potentially contaminated with hazardous waste and the other for sites potentially contaminated with petroleum. The brownfields funding will enable Waynesboro to create an inventory of the parcels and conduct 17 site assessments, all of which support its Downtown Revitalization Plan. Additionally, these funds will assist with public participation efforts that have led to the success of the plan thus far, ensuring active community involvement to achieve their vision of revitalizing the downtown.
Since 1994, EPA has awarded approximately 13 brownfields recipients in Virginia sharing more than $13 million and breathing new life into old properties. These grants to communities, non-profits and the Va. Department of Environmental Quality have resulted in more than 100 assessments and/or cleanups of brownfields properties, created more than 60 jobs and leveraged over $ 93 million in Virginia. Throughout the mid-Atlantic regional states - -which includes Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the District of Columbia - - EPA has supported approximately 100 recipients who have shared more than $70 million in brownfields grants. These regional grants have resulted in more than 1,100 assessments and/or cleanups of brownfields properties, creating more than 8,200 jobs, and leveraging $673 million.