Often, we think of brownfields as large industrial properties with environmental contamination and hazardous materials. However, a broader definition includes real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. This means that the Virginia Brownfield Restoration and Economic Development Assistance Fund (VBAF), administered by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) in coordination with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), may be able to assist with funding to overcome environmental concerns for gateway or downtown commercial district properties.
The town of Big Stone Gap is utilizing these resources in the redevelopment of the Mutual Pharmacy that closed in 2013, with the VBAF funds going specifically to remove asbestos and lead-based paint. Along with DHCD funding from both the Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), as well as the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, for construction, Big Stone Gap will transform the Mutual Pharmacy building into a restaurant and bar space with upper-story, short-term lodging in order to draw locals and visitors downtown for outdoor events and unique food, thereby increasing tourism to the area.
Once the revitalization is complete, approximately 25 jobs will be created and serve as a catalyst to bring additional business investment in downtown Big Stone Gap.
Funds from VBAF can be applied to site assessments and planning or remediation. For local government entities, planning and assessment grants are available up to $50,000 on a rolling basis as funding is available. Remediation grants up to $500,000 are available when announced on a competitive basis. Both funds require a dollar-for-dollar match. In addition, there are other great opportunities available to pursue from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brownfields funding that are open until Jan. 31.
If you would like more information on these programs or to see if your project qualifies, contact DEQ’s Vincent Maiden, brownfields program coordinator, at Vincent.Maiden@DEQ.Virginia.gov or 804-698-4064.
Virginia DEQ Brownfields Program
EPA Region 3 Brownfields Assistance