Planning the work and working the Plan!
2022 National Brownfields Conference - Scholarship Winner Perspective - by April Hawthorne, MPA
OKC Followed the Money
If you want to take your community to the next level you should have been at the 2022 Brownfield Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (OKC). I did not have high expectations for my first time in Oklahoma. I thought I was going to see a lot of old oil wells (I saw one on my way to the airport), ghost towns and big Indian reservations. However, to my surprise Oklahoma City is a budding vibrant city with cultural history like any other city. This opportunity served as the inspiration and education needed to bring back to my great State of Louisiana and the Baton Rouge North Economic Development District.
This mid-sized city in the central United States created a new city from the inside out by focusing on an entrepreneurial approach to redevelopment. Linking architecture, sports, and local food in the city by recycling underutilized commercial and industrial property back to productive use, creating a vibrant community in the very spots that were once plagued with crime and blight.
However, my expectations were high in learning more about the unprecedented financial and technical resources available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill of $1.5 billion investment in EPA’s Brownfields program. This is how Oklahoma City was able to spur Urban renewal by receiving over 15 EPA Brownfields grants to assess and remediated
I had no idea that the new stunning 500,000 square foot Convention Center was a former Brownfields site.
100 % Walkable Pedestrian-Friendly City
I stayed in the heart of Bricktown area that was once a busy warehouse known as OKC’s pr
emier entertainment district. A great example of a city that has switched its point of view from behind a steering wheel to the sidewalks. A completely different infrastructure that was built to be more pedestrian -friendly.
I used several modes of transportation to get to and from the Cox Convention Center. The OKC Streetcar Bricktown loop, also known as MAPS 3 Streetcar. This impressive transportation system has converted the downtown into a modern metropolis. The water taxi tour was about 45 minutes with beautiful scenery and ride through the canal gave me a nice overview of the Bricktown River Walk Park area. My favorite mode was the bird and uber electric scooters.
I was so excited to meet and hear from experts around the county. This conference offered me the opportunity to get the tools and resources needed to create a vision for the future development of North Baton Rouge areas that may qualify as brownfields site for redevelopment. Any thing I could imagine or think of could be used to create a community that is vibrant and full of life. I felt like a kid in a candy store, to know that this federal funding could be use for a plethora of projects such as road, green infrastructure, water quality, green spaces, housing, workforce development, and jobs. Once we apply and hopefully get a grant approved, BRNEDD will get 5 years to get the community shovel project ready. I was overwhelmed with the wealth of information, but I am grateful to have meet our EPA representatives from region 6, Paul Johnson and Althea Foster; Scott Nightingale with Kansas State University TAB; Rebecca Otte with Louisiana DEQ; and Jessica Rury with Leaaf. I was so proud to see Louisiana represented, especially from a technical perspective. I hope to replicate the Brownfields Blueprint from North Louisiana. North Baton Rouge has been a food desert for years and this is one of the main reasons the district was created. North Lake Charles used a suite of federal technical assistance programs to develop a Community Action Plan to address their food desert and transform their community into a food system that improved access to local health foods. I look forward to reimagine North Baton Rouge.