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Former Vicksburg YMCA among the priorities for $300,000 EPA assessment grant



Junius Ward Johnson YMCA on Clay Street in Vicksburg. (Photo by David Day)

The former Junius Ward Johnson YMCA in Vicksburg is among the priority properties identified for assessment in a $300,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant.

The building, located at 821 Clay St., was dedicated in 1923 and abandoned around 2006. Grant funds will be used to develop a cleanup and reuse plan for the building, according to the city’s grant application.

The pool tile remains in incredibly good condition considering its age and wear. This pool was heated and considered therapeutic in its time. (Photo by David Day)

The City of Vicksburg is among 151 communities across the nation and four in Mississippi to receive grants from the EPA to assess, clean up and redevelop potential brownfield properties. Vicksburg’s assessment grant totals $300,000 out of $65.6 million allocated to communities across the nation. The funds will expand the ability of communities to recycle vacant and abandoned properties for new, productive reuses.

“The City of Vicksburg is excited to continue our partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency with the award of this Brownfield Assessment Grant,” said Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. in a statement. “With EPA grant assistance in 2016 and 2017, we successfully combined resources to remove the blight of the vacant Kuhn Memorial Hospital. Earlier this year, we approved the Kuhn site’s transformation into greenspace and walking trails. Building upon the foundation laid with our previous EPA Brownfield Grants, we hope to bring additional reinvestment and redevelopment to Vicksburg, setting a standard of Brownfield excellence for Mississippi and the Southeast for years to come.”

Brownfields are defined as former industrial or commercial sites where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination. Most brownfields have little or no contamination, according to the mayor’s office, so an assessment can free up properties for redevelopment. The state of Mississippi also offers several tax credit and rebate incentives for brownfield cleanup.

“With this newest award from EPA, we turn our attention to addressing environmental concerns in our Downtown Riverfront areas as well as additional unfinished business along the Clay Street corridor leading into our vibrant downtown district,” the mayor added.

The City’s Historic and Riverfront District and the Clay Street corridor both include Qualified Opportunity Zones, which provide tax benefits for capital investments.

Other priority sites include the former Mercy Hospital, for which grant funds will be used to develop a cleanup plan. They also include the area near a former gas station, a former dry cleaner and a former body shop.

“Grants awarded by EPA’s Brownfield Program provide communities and tribes across the country with an opportunity to transform contaminated sites into community assets,”-EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

The funds will also be used to develop and update a GIS-based site inventory, hold annual community meetings and conduct community outreach activities.

Total grant awards in Mississippi are $1,464,000. Other recipients include the City of Canton ($300,000), the Three Rivers Planning and Development District Inc. for work in New Albany, Pontiac and Tupelo ($600,000), and the West Point Consolidated School District for work in Cedar Bluff ($264,000).

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