Trends Summer 2017 | Page 12


An ambitious project is well on its way in Eau Claire , Wisconsin : reclaiming approximately 30 acres of former industrial land along the Chippewa River and developing it to include a major event center ; wellness , aquatics , and recreation facilities ; a River Education Center ; potential commercial , mixed-use , or hotel properties ; and the potential for improved trails and access to the river . The work will be completed in phases with a total project cost expected to exceed $ 80 million .

It ’ s a private-public partnership among several entities that share a common goal of improving the land for the public good , which is also the overall goal of state and federal brownfield funding programs . The programs help communities assess environmental contamination at a site , clean up any contamination , and reclaim properties to benefit the region .
“ Often , a brownfield grant is the first step – the first outside funding that helps a project move beyond the planning stage ,” said Scott Wilson , a vice president at Ayres Associates who works closely with communities to help them find project funding opportunities . “ That investment and the improvement it funds bring energy to help a project progress .”
The Eau Claire project recently was awarded two U . S . Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) brownfield clean-up grants totaling $ 400,000 .
The funds will be used to clean up contaminated soils on a portion of the acreage . The project also received a $ 500,000 redevelopment grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Idle Sites program – the largest award possible from the program . That funding source helps communities implement development plans for industrial sites that have been idle , abandoned , or underused for at least five years .
Both awards require matching funds , and that ’ s where Ayres ’ expertise helps during the planning and application processes .
“ We were able to coordinate applications so the awards serve as matching dollars for each other ,” Wilson said . “ That really stretches the local dollars available for the project .”
As projects move forward , Ayres continues strategizing with communities to find ways to mix and match funds to make the most of potential project dollars .
“ We try to use the funding our communities are receiving – state and federal – to leverage even more funding opportunities ,” Wilson said . “ Funding agencies have a responsibility to weigh the likelihood of project success when they ’ re considering an application . The more investment in the project , the more progress in the project , and the more likely funding agencies will favorably consider an application .”
It ’ s a strategy that ’ s helped Ayres ’ clients in five states receive brownfields funds and move project vision toward project completion : Arizona , Colorado , Florida , Wisconsin , and Wyoming .
“ They hired us to help combine all potential funding sources for the benefit of the community ,” Wilson said . “ It ’ s a strategy that works .”
– Kay Kruse-Stanton