Heartland Brownfields Revitalization
The Heartland Brownfields Revitalization Partnership (HBRP) assists local governments in cleaning up and generating economic development on abandoned or underused commercial and industrial sites. With funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) brownfield program, and the cooperation of the property owners, sites were assessed for the historical potential for environmental contamination, and, if needed, field testing of soil, water and buildings was conducted. If sites prove to be contaminated, loan and subgrant funding through a Revolving Loan Fund, created with a cleanup grant from the EPA, is available.
The Revolving Loan Fund is managed by CFRPC staff with advice from the HBRP Steering Committee, composed of staff from local government and agencies, and a loan/subgrant advisory committee of business and financial representatives. Applications are available from the staff which also provides assistance in preparing the loan or subgrant application, and obtaining cost estimates from a panel of eligible consultants.
Staff and consultants can provide advice on establishing designated Brownfield areas and sites and obtaining State and local incentives to promote productive economic development on Brownfields. CFRPC continues to seek funding to support assessment and cleanup of eligible properties and promote economic and community development projects on these sites.
Polk Nursery – Fresh Star Packing & Cold Storage
In 2010, The Central Florida Regional Planning Council received a $1 Million ARRA assessment coalition grant. This grant established the Heartland Brownfields Revitalization Partnership, a collaboration of 5 largely rural counties; DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee, & Polk. These counties have a collective population of approximately 803,470 residents spread out over a predominantly rural landscape of 7,247 miles. Traditionally, the regional economy was based on phosphate mining, agriculture and cattle ranching.
The Polk Nursery property was recommended for assessment by the staff of the Polk Commerce Centre Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) to facilitate the sale of the property to a new owner for redevelopment. Former uses of the property included plant nursery operations, citrus groves and pasture land.
At the request of the prospective purchasers, the Knapp Family, Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESA) were conducted. As a result, the family decided to buy not only the 20 acres originally envisioned, but rather a total of 254 acres for a master planned integrated agricultural development. In April 2013, a grand opening was held to celebrate the new packing and cold storage facility. The blueberry production operation comprises 100 of the 254 acres, and incorporates innovative “Green” methods for irrigation, fertilization, and other aspects of their operations.
Other plans for the future include becoming a learning lab for students to promote careers in agriculture, and serving as a state of the art research facility for new strains of blueberries and other crops and farming and food processing methods in cooperation with the Universities of Florida and Georgia.
Future plans include a 60-acre mixed use retail development with hotels and restaurants to support a national sports complex and Florida Polytechnic University.
According to CRA director, Perry Clouse “This project paves the way for further manufacturing, retail and residential development envisioned in the master plan for the Polk Commerce Center.”