Federal grant to assist Jackson County redevelop polluted brownfield sites

Brownfields are plots of land which are either unusable or thought to be unusable in their current state.
Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 10:36 PM EDT
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JACKSON, Mich. (WILX) - At one point in time, the city of Jackson was one of the leading industrial cities in the county.

Now many of those buildings and lots that once drove the city’s economy sit empty, unable to use because of ground contamination.

A federal grant program awarded to Jackson could help the city turn brownfield sites into thriving businesses.

Brownfields are plots of land which are either unusable or thought to be unusable in their current state. They have or may have a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant that could prevent development. Under Michigan law, brownfields can also include properties that are blighted, functionally obsolete or owned by the Land Bank Authority.

For years, Commonwealth Associates of Jackson has been located in a spot off the highway, but when they had the chance to move to Downtown Jackson, they couldn’t pass it up.

“It’s right in the middle of everything,” said Rich Collins, with Commonwealth Associates of Jackson. “It’s where they have food truck Tuesdays. So our people are really excited to walk out and have food truck Tuesdays.”

During early inspections of what was once the old Comerica Bank Building, they learned their new home was infested with asbestos. They applied for Brownfield Increment Financing.

“When you’re looking at a property and know there’s contamination there but you’re not really sure what it is, we can actually help and grant that funding to help understand and do the assessments,” said Alex Masten, with Enterprise Group of Jackson.

Brownfield Tax Increment Financing help redevelopers of environmentally contaminated sites assess what needs to be cleaned up. The Jackson County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority has already turned countless businesses from eyesores to popular attractions, like Klavon’s Pizzeria and Pub. They’re hopeful the grant will help them turn more.

“So that we can redevelop it into something where people can come and we can create jobs and we can create investment in the community,” Masten said.

And they hope once businesses find their spot, they’ll be here to stay.

“I expect to be here forever now,” Collins said.

In the past 25 years, the Jackson County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority has been able to make more than 70 lots safe to use again.

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