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Oct 8, 2013

Environmental Justice and Brownfields Redevelopment in Tampa, FL

Category: General
Posted by: rita

When the Tampa Family Health Center in the East Tampa neighborhood opened in 2010, its positive impact extended well beyond the services it started providing to 16,500 patients per year in this severely underserved area. The Center is a wonderful example and driver of Tampa's success in brownfields revitalization. The Center spurred the development of another Tampa Family Health Center on a former car dealership site in another underserved part of the city. It also serves as a primary example of the power of the growing Healthfields movement (improving access to health and healthcare through brownfields redevelopment). The Center's impact has grown even beyond the borders of Florida; the leadership for the Tampa Family Health Center Brownfield Project was asked to serve as the first-ever Community Brownfields Mentor to the City of McComb, Mississippi.

For Tampa, the Center is part of a larger brownfield revitalization story that started over 20 years ago with an EPA Brownfields Pilot Project grant in 1992. Since then, Tampa has been awarded $1.2 million in EPA funding and a $400,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant, which have spurred dozens of redevelopment projects. According to Ed Johnson, the Urban Development Manager in East Tampa, "It is an honor to be part of brownfields redevelopment that has had a big impact on the services available to disadvantaged communities. Not only has this redevelopment cleaned up sites and created jobs, but residents are healthier because of it."

An important focus of brownfields redevelopment in Tampa is the creation of health care facilities, recreational opportunities, and access to healthy food in places where these resources were scarce. These varied projects include a police station on a former landfill site, a future grocery store selling fresh food in a food desert, a 7,000-square-foot professional center, new affordable housing, and the Robert L. Cole Community Lake and Park.

But by far the largest brownfield redevelopment project going on in Tampa right now is the Encore Development in downtown Tampa. This 28-acre, mixed-use, transit-oriented development seeks to build on the rich music history of the site, where Ray Charles wrote his first song and where the "Twist" dance was created. An African American museum will be built in a rehabilitated historic church. Multi-family residential development will consist of 1200 units, including 700 that are designated affordable. Brownfields assessment and cleanup at the site got a big boost when the EPA recently awarded the project a $400,000 Multi-Purpose Brownfields Grant – one of only eight projects in the country to receive this new type of grant. The multi-purpose grant enables the City to use one grant for the full range of brownfield activities, including site assessment, reuse planning and remediation. As Miles Ballogg, consultant with Cardno TBE said, "Having the flexibility afforded by a multi-purpose grant has been important for this type of complex, multi-phased development. This grant is part of a larger story on this project of environmental justice, historic rehabilitation, green development, and economic growth."

At a recent environmental justice workshop in Tampa, organized by NALGEP and the Environmental Justice and Outreach Committees of the Florida Brownfields Association, participants discussed these successes as well as opportunities for new partnerships. By bringing the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ National Prevention Strategy and its Health Resources and Services Administration to the table, achieving more success in cleaning up and revitalizing brownfields and providing access to health and healthcare is likely. And by reaching out to McComb, MS and other communities in earlier stages of redevelopment, Tampa officials can continue to have an even greater impact than the important one they have achieved within their own city limits.