LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The head administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, visited Little Rock for the first time on Thursday.
He was here to observe the progress that the Creative Corridor in downtown Little Rock has made since benefitting from the Brownfields program.
The Brownfields grants are used to help revitalize historic buildings and assist with environmental cleanup involved with that process. Under the Trump administration, over $900,000 has been distributed to state and local entities in Arkansas.
On the Creative Corridor Wheeler said, “You couldn’t have this in downtown Little Rock without having a Brownfields program helping with the environmental cleanup of these old buildings.”
He says the Brownfields grants are just a starting point for sites saying that for every dollar that the EPA puts into a project, $15-$20 more is invested by private companies.
The Creative corridor has seen a turnaround in the past few years unlike any other and Wheeler says he noticed the historic details that have been preserved in the buildings and even the elevated walkways on Main Street to assist with rain water collection.
People are moving back to downtown areas because of convenience and Wheeler said, “Instead of pushing out into green fields and former farmlands I mean we should re-develop our inner cities to get people want to live and work in the same place, they want to be able to walk to a restaurant, walk to the office.”
State Senator Missy Irvin (R, District 18) believes that the way Little Rock has expanded in the corridor is exactly what the Brownfields grants are designed to do saying, “And there were several buildings that kind of started a domino effect where all the buildings surrounding up first Mulberry flats building jumped on the bandwagon and then it just revitalized the whole area.”
The Brownfield grants also provide an economic benefit to go along with environmental ones. The EPA says that this program has led to over 170,000 jobs to be created in clean, construction, and redevelopment under the Trump Administration.
One study of 48 Brownfields sites found that in one year after cleanup local tax revenues were up anywhere from $29 million to $97 million. Another study showed that home values near revitalized zones increased anywhere from 5-15% following cleanup efforts.