Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Milwaukee Wins $5.5 Million To Clean Up Polluted Sites

Part of $315 million federal award. Milwaukee will use much of the award in and around Century City.

By - May 25th, 2023 02:22 pm
3940 N. 35th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

3940 N. 35th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Efforts to clean up legacy industrial contamination in Milwaukee’s 30th Street Corridor scored a major boost Thursday.

As part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced $5.5 million in grants to the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM).

It’s part of $9.5 million awarded to cities across Wisconsin and $315 million across the United States.

Milwaukee is receiving $2 million to clean up a 13.7-acre parcel at the southeast corner of N. 35th St. and W. Capitol Dr. that is part of the larger Century City business park, $500,000 to create five cleanup plans for the 25 census tracts that form the 30th Street Industrial Corridor and $3 million to expand its Brownfield Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund.

“We’re working across the country to revitalize what were once dangerous and polluted sites in overburdened communities into more sustainable and environmentally just places that serve as community assets. Thanks to President [Joe Biden]’s historic investments in America, we’re moving further and faster than ever before to clean up contaminated sites, spur economic redevelopment, and deliver relief that so many communities have been waiting for,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan at a press conference in Century City. “This critical wave of investments is the largest in brownfield history and will accelerate our work to protect the people and the planet by transforming what was once blight into might.”

The city acquired the property, 3940 N. 35th St., for $250,000 in 2019 from Tower Automotive. The company, after selling much of its former manufacturing campus to the city for redevelopment into Century City, had held onto the parcel in hopes of selling it. But a $1.6 million listing price didn’t draw any sales.

The site was long known for holding stacks of auto-body frames manufactured in the adjacent factory complex. Light towers remain on the property, as do traces of the rail yard once used to ship the frames to auto plants.

There is known environmental contamination on a corner of the site, which RACM project manager Benjamin Timm referred to as a “pickle liquor lagoon” in 2019. The pond was used to store sulfuric acid.

The city, which has used the site for temporary storage since acquiring it, will now clean up the property and market it for development. It’s a highly visible site along W. Capitol Dr. and its development would serve as a book-end to the Century City 1 building on the other side of the railroad corridor.

“This investment in our community will help build a stronger community,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson on Thursday.

“By cleaning up legacy pollution, we can attract businesses to invest in and develop these sites, increase the tax base for cities like Milwaukee, spur job creation, and revitalize our neighborhoods,” said Senator Tammy Baldwin.

Milwaukee will soon gain one more site in need of cleanup and revitalization. Master Lock revealed Wednesday night it is closing its 84-year-old manufacturing plant, located 1.6 miles south along the same railroad corridor. Johnson, in a statement, said city officials were not given notice of the closure.

The Master Lock site is likely to be one of several studied as part of the $500,000 planning allocation.

Revolving Loan Fund

RACM’s highly-regarded Brownfield Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund will grow substantially following the $3 million injection from the EPA.

The city uses the loan program to support the redevelopment of contaminated sites across the city. The low-interest loans are repaid over time, with the intent of the proceeds being loaned out again.

From 2002 to 2024, the EPA awarded the fund $10.2 million. RACM, in a March board meeting, reported awarding 18 loans using the fund that were leveraged to clean up 279 acres of land, generate $596 million in private investment and create or retain 4,400 jobs.

The latest allocation from the fund was $260,000 to clean up a site at N. 30th St. and W. North Ave. for use by a Milwaukee Area Technical College lineworker training program, a stormwater retention site and a community space for Metcalfe Park Community Bridges. Other recent allocations include $2 million for Spike Brewing‘s planned facility near W. Capitol Dr. and N. Holton St. and $1.13 million for clean up of the former Edison School, which is being redeveloped into affordable apartments.

3940 N. 35th St.

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