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Huntington working to redevelop brownfield sites

Huntington working to redevelop brownfield sites
Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 7:36 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Major progress has been made toward redeveloping two brownfield sites in Huntington with the help of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding.

Demolition is almost complete at the former ACF manufacturing site, officials said. More than 20 buildings have been removed during the past two years and 85% of the area has been remediated. That’s allowing the focus to shift from clean up to transforming the site for future use.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams showed EPA Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz the economic opportunities at the site during a tour on Thursday. The 47-acre area was purchased by the city, and crews have been working to decontaminate with the help of EPA grants.

That includes scrapping metal and clearing old buildings that were used to build trains. Huntington Municipal Development Authority Executive Director Cathy Burns said the goal is to bring life back to the area that has been closed since 2010.

“We want to have an opportunity for companies, existing companies who want to expand and grow their business, but also new companies who may want to locate here,” Burns said.

The city wanted to minimize risk for a private developer by using EPA funds to prepare the site, Burns said. That includes stormwater and other infrastructure improvements that will allow a welding training center to open in one former building and multiple other businesses to move into other areas of the site.

During Thursday’s tour, Ortiz said it goes beyond economic viability to maintain the history and culture of the community. The former railyard polluted the area for more than a century, but Ortiz said the area is already becoming a success story like thousands of other brownfields across the nation.

“We don’t have all the answers,” Ortiz said. “But, we can help do environmental assessments, and we can help fund planning efforts at the local level. They can take those dollars and find partners and consultants and even their own staff to turn these sites back to economic vitality, but also in a way that’s consistent with the history and the culture of the local community.”

Leaders from the EPA have been in the region all week, looking at how these former industrial sites are being re-imagined to boost the economy. That continued when they group toured the former Black Diamond brownfield site in the Westmoreland area of Huntington.

The former factory has been closed since around the 1980s, and time has taken its toll on the structure with crumbling bricks and graffiti all over the place. Coalfield Development is now working with the EPA to repurpose the building to house a solar power company and reuse corridor that will take construction materials from across the region back into use instead of landfills.

Coalfield Development CEO Brandon Dennison said they have already removed more than 500 tons of contaminated materials from the building, with additional work needed to get it opened. Eventually the building will have a $10 million economic impact on the community.

“We try to re-envision alongside the community,” Dennison said. “Try to re-envision a new purpose for that building and then we adaptively revitalize it to serve that purpose.”

The EPA committed another $200,000 grant to the program for job training on Thursday. Dennison said that will be used to help people get more education and experience in their field.

“Some people say is it more important to clean up, or is it more important to develop, or is it more important to beautify,” Ortiz said. “Well, all of those things have to work together if it’s a success.”

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