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EPA official discusses brownfield cleaning in Billings



Billings, Montana — A group of Billings officials met with U.S. EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe on Tuesday. Many of these individuals have ideas for the city, starting with new housing in the downtown area.

City officials express excitement about the assistance that McCabe’s visit can provide, saying that these plans call for encouraging repair and restoration of existing structures rather than just erecting new ones.

“If Billings is the heart of Montana, then the downtown is the heart of the city. It has to be vibrant to attract people to come,” said Billings City Council member Kendra Shaw on Tuesday.

The Billings brownfield cleanup will get $1 million from the Environmental Protection Agency. A property is considered a brownfield if the presence of potentially hazardous materials makes it difficult to expand, renovate, or utilize the space.

The city hall, the former Billings Gazette building, and the YesterYears Antique Mall are a few of the structures slated for renovation. The city lists them among the sites that could be converted into residential buildings with business space below.

“When I walk around, that’s a lot of what I think about, how do we get more housing? Retail on the first floor downtown but how do we get housing up above?” said Shaw.

Billings is the greatest recipient of the $5.7 million in brownfield projects that the EPA has recognized around the state. It’s money that has the potential to energize communities and raise the attractiveness of the state’s largest city as a place to live.

“Figuring out a path to leverage some of this Brownfield assessment money, the abatement money is really key to giving some of these developers peace of mind, to ‘look, we’ll help you do it’,” Shaw added.

A simple drive around the city’s downtown reveals the dramatic transformation that has taken place in Billings over the years, with new restaurants and shops being added.

But more work needs to be done, according to Shaw.

“It would make a huge impact economically just getting more people living downtown in the city core,” she added.

The new program may be able to make that happen.

“The city of Billings just got a million dollars in a revolving loan fund where they can work with developers and do actual cleanup and abatement of properties,” said K.C Becker.


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