PITTSBURG — The City of Pittsburg is the recipient of a nearly $300,000 grant to assist in planning for the projected Mid-City Renaissance project.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in a release Wednesday that Pittsburg will receive $295,500 in brownfield assessment grants. The grant funds will be used to conduct 11 environmental site assessments, and develop 11 cleanup plans. The funds will also be used to conduct stakeholder and community meetings to engage the surrounding community about the project. Assessment activities will focus on sites located in the city’s Mid-City Renaissance Area.

“EPA’s Brownfields Program expands the ability of communities to recycle vacant and abandoned properties for new, productive reuses, using existing infrastructure," Pruitt said in the release. "These grants leverage other public and private investments, and improve local economies through property cleanup and redevelopment.”

The Mid-City Renaissance Area is the nearly 400-acre former Mission Clay property in the center of Pittsburg.

Serious planning for how to redevelop the area began in 2016 according to Assistant City Manager Jay Byers. The Mid-City project aims to clean-up and redevelop the former site of the Mission Clay pipe construction facility, which contains hundreds of thousands of pounds of clay pipe.

“The plan gets very specific,” Byers said in June of last year. “It outlines what areas we want to focus on for clean-up, financial and investment analyses and more.”

Projects prioritized to start immediately include a market analysis for redevelopment of the 6th Street elementary school, a design plan for 4th street, working with the Kansas Department of Transportation to build a new bridge over the railroad, and the development of a solar array on the property, among other things.

The plan also lists projects the city plans to start within three years, including the development of a dog park at Schlanger Park — on which ground was recently broken — an arts and culture feasibility study and working with KDOT to improve the 4th Street corridor.

“The EPA, particularly the Brownfields Program, has been essential to our redevelopment efforts,” Byers said in the release. “Many of these properties have languished for generations without investment interest, representing health threats and economic blight, but the EPA has given us the resources to provide investors economically viable options for the properties and a clear path for bringing them back into productive reuse. The work we have done has already started attracting interest.”

“We congratulate the city of Pittsburg and applaud their continued commitment to the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfield properties throughout their community,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford. “We’re proud to support this cleanup effort and look forward to the positive environmental and economic impacts to come.”

The Brownfields Program targets communities that are economically disadvantaged and provides funding and assistance to transform blighted sites into assets that can generate jobs and spur economic growth. A study analyzing 48 brownfields sites found that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional tax revenue was generated for local governments in a single year after cleanup. This is two to seven times more than the $12.4 million EPA contributed to the cleanup of these brownfield sites. Furthermore, another study found that property values of homes located near brownfields sites that are cleaned up increased between 5 and 15 percent after cleanup.

— Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. He can be emailed at prichardson@morningsun.net, or follow him on Twitter @PittEditor.