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 Community » MDEQ announces Brownfields Award for Tupelo

MDEQ announces Brownfields Award for Tupelo

(Jackson, Miss.) Oct. 5, 2009– The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) announced Monday that the partnership between the City of Tupelo and MDEQ in redeveloping the Fairpark District in Tupelo has won a regional Phoenix Award. The award will be presented in November at the National Brownfield Conference in New Orleans and will recognize the redevelopment of the contaminated property at the old fairgrounds into the popular downtown Fairpark District. The Phoenix Awards Institute recognizes groups that remediate and redevelop brownfield sites, and their awards represent the industry’s highest honor. The Tupelo Redevelopment Initiative Project will also be considered for the national Overall Grand Prize Phoenix Award at the National Brownfield Conference.

In 2000, during the acquisition of property that included the former Long’s Laundry, the city learned from environmental studies that the soil and groundwater beneath the site had been contaminated by chlorinated solvents. The project stalled until 2003, when the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, on behalf of the city, applied for Targeted Brownfield Assessment assistance through MDEQ.

“We were dead in the water until the brownfields folks at MDEQ came to us and helped. Up to that point, the city had spent close to $200,000 dollars in environmental studies with no clear end point in sight,” says Debbie Brangenberg, Director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association.

“Our goal with the Brownfields Program is to provide direction and clarity to the difficult task of redeveloping contaminated properties,” says Trey Hess, Brownfields Program Coordinator for MDEQ. “At the time, the city was paddling hard but having a difficulty navigating through the environmental and regulatory issues related to the site.”

With a clear understanding of the intended future use of the property and the city’s objectives for redevelopment, MDEQ was able to develop a strategy for the environmental assessment to be completed, for liability protection to be secured, and for the site to be redeveloped in a manner that was protective of human health and the environment. In 2004, demolition of the former dry cleaner began, and the transformation of the properties into “Fairpark” had begun. Liability protection was secured for the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency through a Brownfield Agreement with the Mississippi Commission on Environmental Quality in 2006, and the city saved approximately $87,000 in planning and assessment services provided by MDEQ to address the environmental conditions at the site.

Today, the Fairpark District includes the Renasant Center for Ideas, serving the community as a regionally-based business incubator; the Tupelo Automobile Museum, featuring over 100 antique, classic, and collectible automobiles with an area for viewing actual restoration; City Hall, serving as the centerpiece of Fairpark; City Park with its dancing fountain that attracts children and families from all over, and a variety of upscale retail and small businesses that blend modern amenities with the architectural character and scale of a traditional small city.

The Tupelo Redevelopment Initiative Project, representing the Southeast, will be one of ten regional award winners to be considered for the national Overall Grand Prize Phoenix Award to be announced on November 17that the National Brownfield Conference in New Orleans. More information about the conference and the awards ceremony can be found at http://www.brownfields2009.org.

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