Marseilles, Streator, Peru receive EPA Brownfields grant – Shaw Local


Marseilles has been in a dilemma for years about what to do with the old Nabisco factory on the southern edge of the city near the Illinois River.

But recently, light was shed on a possible solution.

The city is one of several cities in the state to receive a portion of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfields Grant. The grant is designed to identify the need for site remediation and improvement and to facilitate the property owner's sale to a productive business.

The Marseilles Plan includes an assessment of the condition and costs of the old Washington School building.

The grant, which came about through the work of Fehr Graham Engineering and the North Central Illinois Council of Governments, totals $1.5 million, which will be shared between Marseilles, the City of Streator for appraisal of downtown properties, including several former gas stations, and the City of Peru for repairs to space in the old Westclox building, which was damaged by fire 14 years ago.

EPA has selected seven Illinois communities to receive grants totaling $9,883,610 from the Multi-Purpose, Assessment and Remediation Program. This includes Mendota, which received a two-parcel site that housed a dry cleaner and a farm equipment and auto parts store. In addition, the agency is announcing $7.95 million in additional funding for three existing, high-performing Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund grant programs to accelerate their continued work at sites in Illinois.

“The North Central Illinois Council of Governments (NCICG) is pleased to receive the U.S. EPA Brownfield Coalition Grant Award,” said Kevin Lindeman, Executive Director of NCICG.. “This funding will enable NCICG and its project partners, the cities of Marseille, Mendota, Peru and Streator, to assess brownfield redevelopment needs in the project's target areas, better positioning the region for private investment and new development. This grant will help take the next step in the assessment to work toward the ultimate goal of remediating the sites.”

Marseilles had applied for Brownfield grants several times in recent years, but this year, through collaboration with the other two municipalities in La Salle County, the deciding factor was reached.

Built in 1921, the Nabisco Building is an eight-story corrugated box manufacturing plant. At the time, it was the largest such plant in the state outside of Chicago. It stands on a 12-acre site on the south side of the city.

As the first air-conditioned factory in the Midwest, the Nabisco plant was a major employer in the region until it ceased production in 2002. It was acquired by Field Container Co. but closed permanently in 2006.

“This gives us an opportunity to look at the building, see what needs to be rehabilitated and then move forward,” said Marseille Mayor Jim Hollenbeck. “Once we have the assessment and the estimated dollar amount, we will apply for funding for the rehabilitation… The city has no plans for the building. We are trying to help the property owner (Scott Olson of Dynasty Builders in Newark). He has several interested parties, so I'm hoping this will help us get this across the finish line.”

“It's been a burden on the city for some time. When you come over the bridge and see it, you think, 'Wow, that's pretty cool,' but right now it's not doing us any good.”

The cost estimates for demolition of the Washington School at 425 Bluff Street were between $250,000 and $300,000 at the time the application was submitted last November if the city could purchase the property.

Built in 1909, the school was closed in 1990 and all high school-age students were sent to Ottawa High School. Younger students attend Marseilles Grade School.

In Peru, the grant will help restore the portion of the Westclox building that was destroyed by fire in 2012. Mayor Ken Kolowski said the city will work with the NCICG to determine exactly what types of assessment and rehabilitation will be allowed under the grant.

Streator Mayor Tara Bedei said the city will use the funds to study the redevelopment of gas stations in the downtown business district.