Farmington Hills could look to spend a portion of the $60,000 it received through grants funded by the EPA along Orchard Lake Road and other major thoroughfares throughout the city.

Farmington Hills could look to spend a portion of the $60,000 it received through grants funded by the EPA along Orchard Lake Road and other major thoroughfares throughout the city.

Photo by Jonathan Shead

Oakland County Brownfield Consortium receives $600,000 EPA grant

Six member municipalities awarded funds for upcoming projects

By: Jonathan Shead | C&G Newspapers | Published December 8, 2020


FARMINGTON HILLS/SOUTHFIELD — Six municipalities across Oakland County are set to receive U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant funding.

Under the Oakland County Brownfield Consortium, which Oakland County Economic Development Director Brad Hansen said began in 2010, the cities of Farmington Hills, Southfield, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Madison Heights and Pontiac will all receive $60,000 to help fund environmental assessment work for upcoming development projects.

The total grant amount awarded to the consortium is $600,000, with stipulations that it must be spent by Sept. 30, 2023. This is the consortium’s fourth grant from the EPA, and the county’s overall seventh EPA grant. Overall, the funds provided have helped to impact roughly 350 projects across the county, resulting in $1.5 billion in investment and the creation of 6,500 full-time jobs.

“We’re very fortunate to get continued support from the EPA. We have a great track record over the last eight grant cycles as far as projects we spend money on,” Hansen said. “Oakland County and our consortium can point to how the grant dollars have returned investment to the overall community.”

Hansen said the remaining $240,000 will be eligible to be spent in other municipalities across the county through an application process.

Farmington Hills Economic Development Director Samantha Seimer and Southfield Business and Economic Development Director Rochelle Freeman have already begun to brainstorm where and how that funding may get used over the next three years.

In Farmington Hills, Seimer said her department would like to target areas like the Grand River corridor, Orchard Lake Road, Northwestern Highway and other major thoroughfares throughout the city.

“We’re not going to limit it to one specific area, but those are the main strategic priorities throughout the community, as well as some of our industrial parks,” she said. “We can’t really say one way or another if a site is contaminated until we dig into the soil, but just based on the date and age of those properties, there’s a better chance some of those focus areas may have environmental concerns.”

Freeman said the funding will be available throughout the city’s borders, but in the past many of the projects have sprouted up around the city’s Downtown Development Authority district, near Eight Mile and Greenfield roads.

“It’s all just dependent on the project. The city is really just excited to see redevelopments occur in the community, so wherever these dollars will make the most impact, we’re happy to use them in those districts,” she said.

The funds from the grant, Seimer explained, can be used to help developers offset costs associated with phase one and phase two environmental assessment work, which allows a developer to investigate the historical uses of the site and understand if there could be potential contamination there, as well as be used to fund the documentation portion of creating a brownfield plan once a developer purchases a property.

Overall, Seimer said, the funding could help Farmington Hills impact roughly 20-30 projects, or fewer, depending on the scale and impact of the projects.

Freeman agreed the number of projects involved could range based on size, but said there’s a good mix of both big and small projects around town.

“We are an older community, and there’s a lot of opportunity to redevelop in the city,” she said. “Obviously, we only have one huge Northland (Mall) project, but we do have numerous other smaller office buildings that are still substantial in size.”

Across the entire county, Hansen envisions approximately 100 projects to be funded through this latest round of grant money.

The ultimate goal for each city involved is to “really offset those upfront costs (to a developer) to get a development shovel-ready,” Seimer said.

“We’re focused on our great initiatives and our sustainability goals. We think those will build a strong economy and a strong community that families want to live in for generations to come,” she added. “We really see that if we can help sites and clean up some properties, especially in those strategic focus areas, that will really help continue to keep Farmington Hills as one of the leaders of those green initiatives.”

The $60,000 allotted to each community may not seem like a lot to some, Freeman said, but she witnessed it still have a grand impact on Southfield.

“They’ve really spurred a tremendous amount of redevelopment and helped us attract some very large users into vacant properties,” she said. “We’ve had millions and millions of dollars of spinoff occur because we were able to access these dollars.”