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$400,000 EPA Grant To Turn Contaminated Properties Into New Development

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Turning rundown property into something new is common enough but turning around property with hazardous material has become something of a specialty in Baltimore.

Alex DeMetrick has more on how it happens.

Last Friday, an abandoned row house collapsed on Biddle Street. No one was hurt, but there are others that look ready to go.

"The city needs to get out more and do something about these eyesores," said Anthony Vost.

It has.

The long empty Epstein's Department Store in Federal Hill is now 1111 Light Street, an upscale apartment and business complex.

"In an industrial city like Baltimore, there's a lot of places that would qualify," said Gary Suskauer.

Qualify for an EPA Brownfield Grant. Just three years ago, an abandoned mill in Woodberry did. Even though it contained some hazardous materials left over from its manufacturing days, Union Mill is now home to apartments and offices. The EPA grant was used by the city to assess its potential for private development.

"Taking not used or underutilized property and putting into productive use," said Shawn Garvin.

Monday, Baltimore received a $400,000 grant, its seventh and latest, totaling $106 million. The suburban-sized mall going in at Canton Crossing used grant money to convince developers the property could be cleaned up for shopping.

"And that's the kind of retail, the kind of combination of retail, that is going to be a hit in Baltimore," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

These grants may end up in new development but they start out primarily as confidence builders, drawing in investment dollars.

"It provides developers with a level of certainty so they can work with their banks and work with construction to make sure everything's done in an environmentally responsible manner," Suskauer said.

And it's places like Biddle Street the program wants to hear from.

To qualify for the EPA grants, properties need not be heavily contaminated. Something as isolated as an old fuel tank helped build 1111 Light Street.

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