$200K to Lawrence for Abandoned Rail Redevelopment Promise of Future Jobs and Rail Trail

RIVera-merrimackStMarch 27, 2015, Lawrence, MA – Today Nancy Barmakian of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas join Mayor Daniel Rivera to announce a $200,000 grant to plan for the future reuse and revitalization of the Manchester & Lawrence Rail Road (MLRR) line. Lawrence was one of 20 communities nation-wide selected to receive EPA’s Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grant.

The grant will focus on ways to better use the MLRR for unlocking underutilized commercial parcels and transform the rail line to passive recreation and open space. The study area will go from Merrimack Street, where EPA has already committed funds for asbestos remediation of the Merrimac Paper site, to Manchester Street, at which the rail trail will connect to the award-winning Spicket River Greenway.

The rail runs almost parallel to Broadway (Route 28) and spans 1.4 miles over two bridges.

“We are thrilled, and grateful to receive this funding. This grant will allow us to get serious about improving the quality of life for the thousands of residents and dozens of businesses who are within and around the study area. We plan to develop creative commercial reuse options for the many vacant and blighted parcels along the rail, and we hope to Make Lawrence Better by attracting new economic development and bringing new jobs to the area, while creating clean and safe spaces for our families,” said Mayor Rivera.

“The EPA Brownfields Program focuses on cleaning up contaminated sites that will be reused or redeveloped into productive uses for our communities,” said Congresswoman Tsongas.

“Many cities in the Commonwealth are often dotted with blighted landscapes at former industrial or infrastructure sites that hinder economic revitalization, hurt community pride, and are potential environmental hazards. This fund will be used by Lawrence to jump start work on the rail trail project and further the redevelopment and beautification of the city. This is just another example of how Lawrence is turning a corner and highlights the potential that exists here.”

EPA Region I Administrator Curt Spalding was not on hand for the press conference, but sent his team to convey his heartfelt congratulations, “I am proud of the continued achievements and efforts that Lawrence has taken in recent years, and I see this project as a critical step in unlocking the potential of this neighborhood. EPA’s Brownfields funding provides communities with a necessary resource to help assess, clean up and redevelop contaminated properties, boosting local economies and leveraging jobs, all while protecting public health and the environment.”

The City of Lawrence will be working closely with Groundwork Lawrence as the plan is developed. There will be an intense community engagement process led by city staff, Groundwork Lawrence, and other key community and business stakeholders. The effort will begin May of 2015. EPA awarded up to $200,000 to each of the 20 recipients to work on Brownfields planning activities and reuse in conjunction with community assets such as housing, recreation and open space, employment, education and health facilities, social services, transportation options, infrastructure and commerce needs. The area-wide planning approach recognizes that revitalization of the area surrounding Brownfield sites is also critical to the successful reuse of the property. \

The approach enables local leaders to conduct a community-wide systematic approach to identify uses and improvements in the area to foster public-private redevelopment efforts. This inclusive, locally driven planning approach advances health and equity by fostering plans for livable communities through jobs, recreation, housing, and an increased tax base. Considered reuses of Brownfield sites include advanced manufacturing businesses, recreation hubs, mixed-income housing, community centers that serve youth and unskilled workers, leveraging existing infrastructure to support a walkable, transit-oriented community. Many federal programs seek to leverage and build upon the resources already in the communities and the AWP grants will complement these targeted efforts.

Building on federal partnership efforts, DOT has committed to prioritizing communities who use the outcomes of the AWP process to inform subsequent transportation projects in the DOT’s TIGER grant selection process. Not only will this new grant award ensure a robust approach to brownfields reuse, it may also assist the community in securing additional resources to implement the plan.