The former Walmart was used as an example for a vacant building that could potentially be assessed for redevelopment via a federal grant that Juneau is applying for. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

The former Walmart was used as an example for a vacant building that could potentially be assessed for redevelopment via a federal grant that Juneau is applying for. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

City to apply for grant to potentially redevelop underused buildings

This grant will help assess what contaminants or chemicals may be present on potential sites.

The City and Borough of Juneau is partnering with a specialist company to apply for an Environmental Protection Agency grant that could bring in as much as $500,000 to assess the needs of abandoned buildings for reuse.

Brownfields are vacant properties where pollutants or other environmental factors might hamper redevelopment, said Chris Gdak, a senior principal for environmental services with Stantec, the company working with Juneau to write the grant application.

“There’s a lot of different types of brownfields,” Gdak said during a teleconference with CBJ’s Community Development Department on Monday. “If it was built before the 1980s it might have lead-based paint or asbestos-containing material.”

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Buildings such as former gas stations, auto shops, manufacturing sites, dumps, salvage yards and industrial sites are common kinds of brownfields, Gdak said. Lead paint and asbestos are common contaminants that require addressing in pre-1980s structures. The grant, formally known as the EPA Brownfield Community-Wide Assessment Grant, is intended to assess potential brownfields. More grant funding can then be applied to help redevelop the sites.

“We’re really excited about this grant opportunity,” said Beth McKibben, senior planner with CBJ’s CDD. “Positioning private land for reuse will help to reduce blight, support multi-family housing projects, attract new investment to the area, and create new job opportunities once sites have been redeveloped.”

Nugget Mall was used as an example for a building that could potentially be assessed for redevelopment via a federal grant that Juneau is applying for. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Nugget Mall was used as an example for a building that could potentially be assessed for redevelopment via a federal grant that Juneau is applying for. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

McKibben said they’re currently reaching out to stakeholders in the community for more information about potential brownfields that could go on the grant. Some of the buildings the grant could potentially assess include the former Walmart, the vacant Gas-N-Go near Lemon Creek, the Gross Alaska 20th Century Theatre downtown and the Nugget Mall.

“Malls in particular are a big theme in brownfield projects across the country,” Gdak said. “We call them mallfields; in general they’re good examples.”

These buildings are only potential candidates for assessment, McKibben said, as Stantec puts together the grant application in partnership with the city. CDD has been working with the company for several month, McKibben said.

“The buildings shown in the presentation are examples only — to highlight the need for an assessment in Juneau,” McKibben said. “When picking sites to highlight we also considered potential for redevelopment/renovation as well as future opportunities for other funding sources.”

The grant application is due on Dec. 1, 2021, for Fiscal Year 2022, Gdak said. Stantec has done applications for this kind of grant all over the country, including a number of high-profile successes in Anchorage for redeveloping formerly vacant properties, with 14 properties assessed and nearly $1 million in grant funding issued. The assessment is direct, not a funds-matching grant, Gdak, making it a good opportunity.

“It’s a very competitive grant program. Historically, only about one-third of grant applicants receive funding,” Gdak said. “Anchorage is a good example of how to start building a program around a community-wide assessment program.”

Once grant funding for the assessment is issued, said Andrea Pederson, a Brownfield grant specialist, the city will form an advisory committee to help administer it. Stakeholders who have not been in touch with the CDD should contact McKibben at her work email, beth.mckibben@juneau.org or at (907)586-0753 ext 4128, McKibben said.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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