Community-wide Brownfields Assessment in Polk County

Since 2009, a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allowed the Central Florida RPC (CFRPC) to conduct reuse planning and Brownfields assessment of approximately 35 sites throughout Polk County leading to plans for future developments on previously unused sites in downtown corridors, future healthcare sites, and a community garden.

Investors fear taking on the burden of environmental risk and overcoming this barrier is essential to successful redevelopment and revitalization of business corridors and downtowns. Assessment activities provide a valuable tool to determine if contamination exists on a site. The process quantifies the costs of cleanup activities, which helps developers determine manageable costs and provide them with support for additional funding and incentives. The assessment funds provided a process to bring together public and private partnerships in an effort to increase economic development and quality of life in our communities.

As a recipient of areawide planning funds, the Central Florida RPC in cooperation with community residents, business owners, Polk County, and the City of Lakeland developed an area-wide plan for the Combee Settlement in Lakeland, FL. The drafting of the Plan offered a forum for collaboration to identify opportunities and challenges facing the neighborhood. Programs for economic growth and community development, infrastructure improvements and priorities, Complete Street Corridors, Brownfield Redevelopment priorities, and concepts for redevelopment of a 57-acre catalyst site on the southeast side of Lake Parker were identified. Since plan completion, a community garden was built and a complete streets improvement project is progressing through the local transportation planning organization’s process.