Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced $10 million for the Neighborhood Revitalization Brownfield Remediation program at a remediated brownfield site in Bellwood, Illinois, on Tuesday. The program is spearheaded by the Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability (DES) to assess and remediate contaminated brownfield sites in suburban Cook County to promote economic growth and investment through redevelopment for businesses, housing, parks and other uses that benefit communities. The County began accepting nominations for site selection today.
“Cleaning up contaminated brownfields is an essential part of achieving environmental justice,” says President Preckwinkle. “This program will allow us to directly address historic inequities in terms of the disproportionate effect of past pollution on underserved communities. Today’s announcement opens the door for new developments that will bring jobs and other community benefits to these impacted areas.”
Open to all suburban Cook County, the program gives priority to assessing and remediating sites in communities with lower income and higher minority populations, proximity to past and present pollution sites such as hazardous waste facilities, as well as community support and potential for redevelopment. The program will also include the removal of asbestos, if it is present, and the demolition of abandoned and unwanted structures that can pose a safety risk as well as decrease property values.
“Since 2014, the County has assessed over 60 sites, totaling approximately 525 acres of land,” says Director of the Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability Deborah Stone. “Expanding and increasing the number of contaminated brownfield sites remediated, especially in the south and west suburbs, will help correct historical injustice.”
Over the last seven years, the County assessed and remediated a site in Bellwood where a gas station had been sitting vacant since the mid-1990s. After the County made the land safe and usable again through its brownfield program, the Village of Bellwood built two single-family homes.
The Village of Bellwood’s new single-family home initiative has been a tremendous success. These two houses wouldn’t be possible without the financial assistance provided by Cook County and President Preckwinkle,” says Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey. “The long-vacant former commercial site upon which these two houses now stand would still be vacant today if it we hadn’t been able to work with the County and the Coalition. This project is a prime example of how the County and local government working together can positively impact the lives of residents.”
The County is funding the Neighborhood Revitalization Brownfield Remediation program through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The County allocated over $100 million in ARPA funding to support a clean environment for all and to fight climate change.
Today’s announcement comes at the same week Cook County hosts its 4th annual Racial Equity Week in which this year’s theme “Many People, One Goal” reflects the breadth and depth of the County’s diverse inhabitants and the desire for a thriving, safe and just county for all.
For more information and to nominate a site, visit cookcountyil.gov/brownfields.
For news, updates and registration links for Racial Equity Week events please visit engagecookcounty.com/racialequity