In Lovelock, a $600K grant could spur investment in vacant mining, commercial sites
Public meeting set for Jan. 27 at Pershing County Community Center
Nevada News Group
LOVELOCK, Nev. — With many abandoned buildings and vacant lots, there’s plenty of need for revitalization in and around the city of Lovelock.
Many of the properties were once homes to thriving businesses, such as gas stations, repair shops, hotels, stock yards, entertainment venues and manufacturing facilities.
For those looking to resurrect historic properties, there’s a surprising amount of federal money available for real estate background checks, environmental assessments, cleanup projects and redevelopment.
The EPA’s Brownfield Program distributes millions of dollars in grants and loans each year to put old properties back to work producing goods, services, jobs and tax revenues.
According to Converse Consultants of Reno, the EPA must set aside $50 million a year to support state brownfield grant programs. That works out to about a million a year per state.
But, what are “brownfields”? They are properties where past commercial, industrial or residential use may or may not have impacted land and water. Brownfields could be pollution-free or they might need major cleanup.
Converse was hired last year to help the city and county utilize a $600,000 EPA Brownfield Grant to research properties with the potential for new business and industry. Four areas targeted are the downtown corridor, freeway exits, the industrial park and mine-scarred areas.
About 25 properties will be investigated during the initial “Phase I” environmental assessment, said Pershing County Economic Development Director Heidi Lusby-Angvick. The site of an old sheep yard in the industrial park that’s owned by the county has already been assessed.
“We have identified sites that we would like to get assessments on,” she said. “Some of those would be gasoline or petroleum sites. A site that we’re looking at might not be contaminated but it might be perceived as contaminated just because it’s been vacant for so long.”
But, the list changed overnight when the Main Street Fire in November destroyed three historic buildings.
“Unfortunately, while Main Street was burning down, we called our consultants and said these properties have just now risen to the top of our priority list,” Lusby-Angvick explained. “There’s five properties involved there. You’ve got the vacant lot, two that were owned by one gentleman and then two that were owned by another family. So, it was a total of five properties involved.”
But, the environmental assessments are voluntary and property owners must agree to the process. So far, two of the property owners agreed, and assessments on three of the burned properties have been completed by Converse.
Lovelock Mayor Mike Giles is on board with the program but he’d like more county involvement.
“We put out an RFP through WNDD for a professional firm, and Converse Consulting bid on it,” he explained. “We’ve had several meetings with Converse and they’ve already laid out their plan of attack. They’ve already been on site to do the properties on Main Street and a piece of property down in the industrial park that the county owns. We’ve been trying to get the city and county together to meet with the brownfield people but it hasn’t quite worked out yet.”
Other Nevada communities have benefited from the EPA brownfield program including Fallon that used brownfield funds to clean up a site for a new senior center, Lusby-Angvick said. She attended an “overwhelming” national brownfield conference last month in Los Angeles.
“This is a tool for revitalization of our community,” she said. “This is a tool for property owners to be able to sell their property. Maybe it’s a vacant lot that’s been sitting vacant forever but now it has a clean bill of health and maybe it makes that property more appealing for a new buyer.”
For those who would like more brownfield information, there will be a community meeting on Monday, Jan. 27, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Pershing County Community Center in Lovelock.
Per the agreement, Caesars will continue to operate Harrah’s for the first half of 2020 before it’s redeveloped into a non-gaming hotel and mixed-use development.