The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Dearborn with $500,000 in revolving loan funds for a pilot program to clean and rebuild contaminated industrial sites.Dearborn is the hometown of Henry Ford and the world headquarters of the Ford Motor Co. Between 1920 and 1960, 17% of the city’s 24.5 square miles was developed for industrial use.

Due to age, changes in technology, abandonment and old operational practices, a significant number of industrial sites are in a state of physical and economic decline or total obsolescence. The pilot program is designed to close the financial gap for projects and encourage cleanup and redevelopment of underutilized and obsolete sites. “The way we’re going, we can offer developers a cheaper, easier method to redevelop brownfields than a cornfield,” says Fred Weiss, assistant director of economic development for the city.

He told that the city has been successful in the past at creating new development by cleaning up old sites. Recent projects include a $2.7 million, three-story medical facility from a vacant automotive chop shop site, a $1 million grocery store expansion on a former steel plant, and a $12.5 million residential development from a 70-year-old steel plant.

He said the new program should create new job and housing opportunities, increase the property value of brownfields, return obsolete sites to productive use and facilitate private investment. The primary target area is the industrial corridor, although sites throughout Dearborn are eligible for funding. The City’s Economic and Community Development Department will serve as lead agency. Tax increment financing revenues are being considered as ways to repay the loan. Interest rates would be four percent.Weiss says the $500,000 would join potential funding sources such as Michigan Site Reclamation Grants the Michigan Brownfield Revolving Loan, Michigan Single Business Tax incentives and private developer matching funds.

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