Federal grant to help Jackson County redevelop polluted wasteland

JACKSON, Mich. (WILX) – At one time, the city of Jackson was one of the county’s major industrial towns.

Today, many of those buildings and land that once fueled the city’s economy lie empty, unusable due to soil contamination.

A federal grant program awarded to Jackson could help the city turn brownfields into thriving businesses.

Brownfields are parcels of land that are unusable or considered unusable in their current state. They contain or may contain a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant that could prevent development. Under Michigan law, brownfields can also include properties that are degraded, functionally obsolete, or owned by the Land Bank Authority.

For years, Commonwealth Associates of Jackson was located in a location off the freeway, but when they got the chance to move to downtown Jackson, they couldn’t pass it up.

“It’s right in the middle of everything,” said Rich Collins, with Jackson’s Commonwealth Associates. “That’s where they have food trucks on Tuesdays. So our people are really excited to go out and have Food Truck Tuesdays.

During initial inspections of what was once the old Comerica Bank building, they learned that their new home was infested with asbestos. They applied for Progressive financing of brownfields.

“When you’re looking at a property and you know there’s contamination but you’re not really sure what it is, we can actually help and provide that funding to help understand and do the ratings,” said Alex Masten, with Jackson Area Manufacturers Association.

Tax-enhanced brownfield funding helps re-developers of environmentally contaminated sites assess what needs to be cleaned up. Jackson County Brownfields Redevelopment Authority has already turned countless horror businesses into popular attractions, such as the Klavon Pizzeria and Pub. They hope the grant will help them tour more.

“So we can redevelop it into something where people can come and we can create jobs and we can create community investment,” Masten said.

And they’re hoping that once businesses find their footing, they’ll be here to stay.

“I expect to be here forever now,” Collins said.

Over the past 25 years, the Jackson County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority has been able to make over 70 lots safe to use again.

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