Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg receives federal “Brownfields” grant, plans more site cleanup

Bryan Davis, executive director of the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority, spoke today from the future expansion site of Hamilton Health Center.

Harrisburg’s Allison Hill is littered with brownfield sites, the legacy of the many factories and other industrial companies that once operated there.

Today, the city announced the receipt of a $300,000 federal Brownfields Program grant, which will help remediate some of the residual contamination, with the goal of putting those sites back into productive use.

“A key element of the federal program is to redevelop a lot of these old, abandoned sites versus going into pristine, non-touched natural environment,” said John Armstead, the Mid-Atlantic land, chemical and redevelopment regional division director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The grant will be used to identify brownfield sites that have potential for redevelopment, conduct environmental assessments and plan the clean up of the sites, Armstead said.

“[The grant is] critical to us because we have so many properties that have a history of being along rail lines, being in creek beds and that have possible contamination, but in many instances, people just don’t know,” said Bryan Davis, the executive director of the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority.

Last year, the authority received a $200,000 Brownfields Program grant. That grant, said Armstead, was leveraged for $26 million in redevelopment, as the money is used to clean up sites that otherwise would be difficult to redevelop.

This time around, potential projects for the grant may include an expansion of N.F. String and Son, Inc., one of the largest employers in the area, the redevelopment of an abandoned Coca-Cola bottling plant on Allison Hill and the creation of a new grocery store in Harrisburg, said Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

“We’ve created over a thousand jobs in the city over the last 12 months alone, and that number continues to grow,” Papenfuse said. “It’s an exciting time to invest, and this grant will lay the groundwork for additional dollars coming right here into the heart of Allison Hill.”

Hamilton Health Center built on a previous brownfield site, demonstrating the potential for development and revitalization in Allison Hill, said CEO Jeannine Peterson. She said that she hoped the grant would further the redevelopment of the area.

“We’re looking for the investment to come here,” she said. “The EPA saw it, and they gave funding to the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority to get it started. We are so happy that the second round [of funding] is coming here. We are hoping that other businesses see the vision that we grasped over 10 years ago and come and take advantage of the area.”

The grant could also bring the potential for further community engagement. Julie Waters, the neighborhood revitalization manager of Tri-County Community Action, an advocacy group for residents of the tri-county area, said that the community is a crucial part of revitalization efforts.

“This funding stream brings great momentum that’s building in this community and in the city,” she said. “It provides another opportunity for residents to raise their voices and share their expertise so that the way the community looks and functions reflects their needs.”

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