By: Rebecca Otte | Mar 15, 2021
The 2018 BUILD Act that extended and enhanced EPA’s Brownfields Program also created Small Technical Assistance Grants to help small communities, Indian tribes, rural areas and disadvantaged communities lay the groundwork to address Brownfield sites. The funding is competitively awarded to State and Tribal Brownfield Programs on an annual basis. In order to reach eligible communities, LDEQ partners with a local Brownfield Program to apply for funding each year. The funding is then used to provide training, research, and technical assistance to facilitate the reuse Brownfield sites.
Our partner for the first Small Technical Assistance Grant, Acadiana Planning Commission (APC) is currently working with the Town of Church Point to identify and map potential Brownfield sites in their community, especially their historic downtown, including vacant gas stations, closed industrial sites, a former rail corridor, and other vacant and underutilized properties. Formerly known as the Buggy Capital of Louisiana, the Town of Church Point is in the center of the Cajun Prairie of Southwest Louisiana, known for its unique, annual Mardi Gras Celebration called the Courir de Mardi Gras, and their boudin, gumbo, and jambalaya. With limited outside investment, the Town of Church Point, like many rural towns in Acadiana, has been experiencing steady population loss that can be closely linked to a decline in its downtown, with many commercial structures along its main street in poor condition and/or vacant. Redevelopment of these downtown structures is complicated by the presence and/or perception of environmental issues.
The Small Technical Assistance Grant to APC is being used to develop a parcel-based, GIS-mapped brownfield inventory, support community engagement efforts, and facilitate the town’s visioning and planning efforts. The goal is to identify catalyst sites for future economic development activities and prepare the Town to apply for Brownfield assessment and cleanup grant(s). Partnering with governmental, economic development and community-based entities, these efforts will build on the town’s past downtown revitalization successes such registering the area as a state Cultural District which provides access to tax credits. Redevelopment efforts are also supported by the state-designated Opportunity Zone that includes Church Point, allowing access to investment capital for improvements and job creation.
Although delayed due to COVID, APC is well underway with its community outreach and inventorying efforts. Using State and Federal data sets as well as historical resources such as Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, APC is mapping out sites with potential environmental concerns in the Church Point community. APC plans to utilize ESRI StoryMaps to visually display the information collected and provide opportunities for continued public involvement. (Interested in learning more about StoryMaps? Check out the webinar on April 21!) APC also developed a retail market analysis to generate ideas for future redevelopment. Coordinating their efforts with the mayor, council members and the Church Point Community Development Corporation to help identify brownfield redevelopment priorities, APC plans to develop an action plan for the reuse of the site(s) that have the greatest catalytic potential.
These efforts also coordinate with APC’s Opportunity Zone Asset Mapping which uses the Wealth Works model to look at an array of community, building and financial assets. APC held an online meeting for the Town of Church Point on August 4, 2020, to solicit input and information from the community, with over 90 people in attendance. The recording is available at: