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Ottumwa Brownfields Redevelopment Project

Ottumwa, IA
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded the City of Ottumwa $400,000 in Brownfields Assessment Grants in FY 2010 and another $400,000 in FY 2013. An agricultural recession in the 1980s adversely impacted the community causing massive job losses and a subsequent population decline. As a consequence, underutilized industrial and commercial properties plagued the area near the Des Moines River in southeastern Ottumwa and along the primary transportation corridor transecting the downtown. City officials targeted their brownfields efforts in the “Main Street Corridor” and the “Hayne and Railroad Development Area.”

Environmental investigations allowed the City of Ottumwa to clear several critical properties for reinvestment. This includes planning and conducting Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESA) on the “Market on Main” site located at 327/331 East Main Street. The $1.29 million project involved numerous entities partnering to rehabilitate formerly blighted structures into a farmers market and two business incubators designed to formalize local businesses and create a local economic impact. The facility also provides an opportunity to educate residents on healthy food choices and to encourage the purchase of locally-grown produce.

Similar testing at 227/231 East Main Street facilitated the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation’s purchase of the historic former theaters. The non-profit organization plans to conduct community outreach activities to help decide the future of the buildings. The project will ultimately transition another former brownfield site into a downtown anchor and advance revitalization efforts in this target area.

HR Green assisted the City of Ottumwa with the Brownfield process by: preparing the applications to obtain EPA Brownfield grant funding; creating an innovative Geographic Information Systems (GIS) prioritization model to inventory potential brownfields sites and rank future assessments; working with city staff and the Ottumwa Brownfields Project Team to prioritize the identified properties; preparing brochures and presentations for community outreach; completing work plans, quarterly progress reports, closeout reports, and Phase I and II ESAs; evaluating redevelopment options based upon identified contaminant conditions; and serving as a resource for the City and its project partners during redevelopment negotiations with private companies.

HR Green’s innovative GIS prioritization tool identifies parcels with known environmental risks that also exhibit strong characteristics for a successful development. This creative solution helps create a defensible starting point for future assessments and can be tailored to a wide variety of other environmental, social, and economic development variables. GIS prioritization model input and output map layers were brought into a web mapping portal and linked the project GIS website to help community residents and stakeholders visualize reuse options during the Community Engagement sessions. For more details about HR Green’s innovative brownfields redevelopment GIS prioritization tool, see our “GIS Prioritization Model Makes Sense of Diverse Data” article.

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