$600K EPA grant to help Pittsburgh, neighbors reclaim tainted industrial sites
Pittsburgh, Clairton and McKees Rocks will benefit from a $600,000 federal grant to assess former industrial sites for development.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said the money is critical for luring developers to properties that would otherwise be ignored because of potential environmental cleanup costs.
“Developers will walk away and go and develop in a cornfield because it costs less money,” Peduto said. “These funds are absolutely critical so we can become competitive with outside areas that don't have those types of environmental issues.”
The Environmental Protection Agency awarded the grant to North Side Industrial Development Co., a nonprofit that works to stimulate development in impoverished communities.
Executive Director Juan Garrett said it would be used to assess vacant land for contaminants.
He would not identify specific sites because they must be approved by regulatory agencies, but Garrett confirmed the municipalities include Clairton, McKees Rocks and the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Homewood, Larimer, Hazelwood and Manchester.
Poverty rates for Clairton and McKees Rocks are 28.6 percent and 21.9 percent, respectively, according to 2016 Census statistics. The national average is about 13.5 percent. The neighborhoods included are among the city's poorest.
“A lot of developers don't want to make an upfront cost because they don't know what they're going to see on the site,” Garrett said. “We've been able to create a program that takes care of that upfront cost and developers can come in and see what they're working with.”
The program has paid off in Pittsburgh.
A former foundry property in Lawrenceville that was eligible to receive EPA money is now home to the Foundry at 41st, a luxury apartment complex where officials made the grant announcement Friday.
Garrett said other North Side Industrial Development assessment sites include land used to build a senior citizen apartment building in Homewood and the planned New Grenada Square development in the Hill District. The former New Grenada Theater, which would anchor the new development, was a jazz hot spot during the 1930s, '40s and '50s.
“A big focus of this is helping some of the underresourced communities in the region to redevelop some of the contaminated industrial sites and bring them back to productive use,” said Michael Knoop, who chairs the North Side Industrial Development board of directors.