© 2024 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

EPA grant promises new purposes for vacant lots in the Tri-County area

Joe Deacon
The site where the former Harrison School stood is just one of the examples of a potential "brownfield" that could be repurposed in the Tri-County area.

A new grant means plans to reuse contaminated waste sites across the Tri-County area are in the works.

A $500,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enables the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission to hire a consultant to do as many as fifteen studies on area “brownfields.”

“A brownfield is quite simply sort of an underutilized piece of property,” said Executive Director Eric Miller. “Could be a vacant lot with some, maybe, some environmental concerns. Could be…an old factory that is no longer being used or being underused.”

Some examples of brownfields in Peoria include the former Butternut Bread Bakery and the previous home of Harrison School. Miller says the commission is also working to identify potential study sites in Woodford and Tazewell County.

“A big part of the planning here is to do outreach to communities and stakeholders,” he said. “To sort of identify these sites.”

Once identified, a consultant will conduct the phase one study, narrow down to eight sites for a phase two study and provide a general plan for the reuse of the sites to property owners and municipalities. Miller says the entire process is expected to take around four years.

“It’s a community effort to sort of identify and reuse pieces of property,” he said. “And identify, perhaps, blighted areas and get them to be able to be productive and on the tax rolls again.”

The potential reuse of these sites could be anything, commercial, residential, or industrial, all depending on the surrounding communities needs. Miller says the commission will be working with real estate experts, community members, and city officials to help determine what those most effective uses are.

Once the plans are in the hands of property owners and community leaders, it's their role to enact them.

The $500,000 awarded to the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission is part of a total $17 million in grants awarded to environmental cleanup projects around the state.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.