The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfield grant program has steadily gained popularity nationwide since its inception in 1995. Municipalities, non-profits, political parties, and developers have recognized this program as a vital tool for revitalizing neighborhoods and catalyzing economic growth. Although grant funds have continued to grow (the fiscal year 2019 grants equaled to just over 50 million and were distributed to almost 150 communities), the demand for these grant funds is far more than the supply. Because the grant competition is quite competitive, it’s imperative for grant seekers to select viable sites and plan for successful redevelopment.
One key strategy for ensuring successful redevelopment of a site, is using multiple financial resources. Layering resources and leveraging funds will not only assist in the cost of the life the project from assessment to redevelopment, but it also gives developers incentives they need to get on board, all of which increases the viability of the project and the potential to be awarded grant funds.
A local site that exemplifies this strategy is the Four Corners intersection in Lafayette, Louisiana, a historically vibrant area where residents and local businesses, including a former Coca-Cola Bottling Plant, thrived and is now one of the most impoverished areas in Lafayette. The Acadiana Planning Commission (APC) was awarded grant funds from the EPA for the 2019 fiscal year, and the Four Corners intersection, where residents and visitors pass to enter and exit the city, will be a priority in creating an inviting gateway to the community while providing job opportunities, affordable housing, and safe spaces to gather for the community, once again.
The former Coca-Cola Bottling Plant, built in 1936, was one of Coca-Cola’s first bottling plants in Louisiana, and as of last year is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. HRI Properties out of New Orleans, Louisiana, saw potential in the Four Corners intersection and the old bottling plant, and with assistance from the APC and community input, have mapped out a plan to revitalize the intersection and rehabilitate the bottling plant into what they’ve fittingly dubbed The Bottle Art Lofts.
The Bottle Art Lofts project will include demolition of the LessPay Motel, a blighted motel infamously known by the community as a hub for crime, and the redevelopment of the bottling plant and associated warehouses to include 40 affordable housing units with leasing preference to artists and community spaces and amenities. According to Chad LaComb, an Economic Development Planner for APC, the unique circumstances surrounding the Four Corners intersection including the bottling plant’s spot on the National Register of Historic Places and it’s location at the center of a state cultural district, as well as the site’s location in an opportunity zone and plans for low income housing units as part of The Bottle Art Lofts plans, HRI is able to receive state and federal historic preservation tax credits and low income housing tax credits in addition to using funds from EPA Brownfield grant money. The much-needed revival of the Four Corners neighborhood may not have been an option without layering resources and leveraging programs to make The Bottle Art Lofts project a viable one. The Bottle Art Lofts project is in the assessment phase, and the community is hopeful for their neighborhood comeback.