Spokane Journal of Business

Brownfields work could spur activity in Hillyard

EPA funding will help city plan cleanup, strategy

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-—Judith Spitzer
Richard Buris, president of the Greater Hillyard Business Association, is one of the stakeholders involved in the plan to help the community cleanup industrial areas there and generate more business activity.

A $200,000 federal grant the city of Spokane recently won to help the Hillyard community develop a plan and implementation strategy to clean up industrial areas there could help spur more economic activity, says Teri Stripes, assistant city planner.

This is the third grant in a series of grants that the city has applied for to fund projects in northeast Spokane neighborhoods, which include Hillyard’s historic core located along north Market Street. 

The Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant from the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency will provide funding to develop an 800-acre, area-wide plan to revitalize and sustainably reuse roughly 500 acres of industrial property north and east of Havana Street. The area, called the Yard, also encompasses 300 acres of residential property located north of Garland Avenue and east of Market Street in Hillyard.

Brownfield sites are areas that have the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. The 2002 Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act was passed to help communities nationwide revitalize brownfields sites. The EPA provides funding to eligible applicants through competitive grant programs to clean up such sites. 

Stripes says the Hillyard project aims to address contamination in an area that once was the site of an industrial center built around a freight rail yard, which included steam engine manufacturing, maintenance, and repair facilities. The BNSF Railway system still operates in the area.

The redevelopment is expected to improve public health and promote jobs and economic opportunities for the community, Stripes says.

A critical component of the project is the involvement of community members and business leaders in the area, she adds. The Hillyard Neighborhood Council, the Greater Hillyard Business Association, Greater Spokane Incorporated, the Spokane Regional Health District, and the Washington state departments of commerce, transportation and ecology are all involved in the process of cleaning up the area for redevelopment. 

The Northeast Public Development Authority, established by the Spokane City Council in 2002, has been working since then seeking grants and creating public-and-private partnerships in the area as a foundation for the redevelopment efforts. 

A $110,000 state Department of Commerce grant and a $22,000 grant for economic development were approved last year. The city also has applied for two other grants, a $300,000 integrated planning grant and a $400,000 EPA assessment grant. Stripes says the city is hoping to hear this spring whether those have been approved. 

She says the city will conduct financial feasibility analyses for redevelopment of properties in the neighborhood. It also will develop a plan to provide the infrastructure needed to make properties ready for redevelopment, such as through improved roads, utilities, and stormwater disposal, as well as addressing site-specific needs of particular industries. 

Amber Waldref, the city council member who represents northeast Spokane, says the goal of the grant is to determine where redevelopment activities should occur. 

“The land is just sitting there, and the focus now is redevelopment and to get industry in there and incentivize jobs,” Waldref says. 

Richard Buris, president of the Greater Hillyard Business Association, which advocates for businesses in Northeast Spokane, says the group has supported the work of the Northeast Public Development Authority and the city. 

“We’re involved in a lot of market revitalization, and we think the grants are great benefits for the community,” he says.

Judith  Spitzer
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Reporter Judith Spitzer covers technology, mining, agriculture, and wood products for the Journal. A vintage-obsessed antique collector in her off hours, Judith worked as a journalist in Colorado and Oregon before joining the Journal.

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