This story was updated at 10:24 p.m. with more information.
Chattanooga received $4.9 million in federal money on Wednesday, some of which may go to help clean up the U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site where a new minor league baseball stadium is proposed.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funds include $500,000 for brownfield assessments, $500,000 for cleanup and $3.9 million in revolving loan funds to help renew and revitalize contaminated properties known as brownfields, EPA officials said at the proposed Chattanooga Lookouts stadium site in the South Broad District.
Janet McCabe, EPA's deputy administrator, said that while the foundry site between Broad Street and Interstate 24 is a brownfield or contaminated former industrial site now, there's an opportunity to turn it into productive use.
She said in an interview that the 120-acre tract is a gateway into the city for people arriving from Nashville and "to have something attractive and vibrant" on the parcel would be a boost to the neighborhood and the economy.
Jermaine Freeman, the city's economic development officer, said it's not known yet how much money could be earmarked for the foundry property.
Some of the EPA funds could go to the acreage where the stadium itself will sit or to surrounding projects, he said.
Developers, for example, will have an opportunity to apply for revolving loan funds.
The $500,000 assessment grant will be used to compile an inventory of brownfield sites and conduct environmental assessments, which help determine remediation needs based on planned redevelopment, officials said.
Priority sites for the funding include the U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry property, a former R.L. Stowe Mercerizing Mill at 1101 S. Watkins St. and a former 9.7-acre brick quarry at 740 E. 12th St., according to the city.
The $500,000 cleanup grant will be used at an abandoned rail corridor that will serve as the site of a future greenway from Alton Park to the Broad Street area. It also will support community engagement activities, such as community meetings, to gain input on cleanup work plans.
The $4.9 million is funded by President Joe Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, according to the EPA.
David Salyers, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, cited earlier cleanup work in Hamilton County. He noted development on the riverfront and at the Enterprise South industrial park, adding that brownfield restoration pays "huge dividends" to citizens.
Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly said it's expensive and time-consuming to correct the mistakes of the past that led to parts of the city becoming virtually unusable.
But he said in a statement that with the help of the EPA grant, he's confident that "we'll be able to work toward turning more of these eyesores into healthy properties that generate economic growth for our community."
Chattanooga-based Perimeter Properties bought Wheland Foundry after that business shut down in 2003 following 136 years of operation.
Three years later, the adjacent U.S. Pipe business closed after more than 100 years of operation. Perimeter purchased that property, too, and its officials since have been looking at redevelopment options for both parcels. The landowner already has done some environmental work.
Jim Irwin, president of New City Properties of Atlanta — hired as the master developer of the foundry tract — said in an earlier interview that the state has issued a "no further action letter," meaning that no further cleanup of the site would be required if nothing else is to be done with it. But he said that's just the start of work on the site as he helps craft a plan for future development of the property.
Freeman said a decision on how a piece of the foundry site will be redeveloped should determine how much additional cleanup will be required. Different end uses will require different environmental strategies, he said.
Last week, the city and county revealed plans for using public and private money for the multiuse stadium, financed by the sale of 30-year bonds for $79.4 million.
Including 8-9 acres of land donated by Perimeter Properties, the project estimated by officials from $89 million to $94 million is envisioned to ultimately spur more than $1 billion in nearby private investment on the old foundry site.
If the plan receives all the approvals from city and county government, the new stadium could be ready for the Lookouts' opening day in spring 2025, officials have said. The stadium would have a capacity of more than 8,000 people for minor league baseball.
Kelly said last week that the Lookouts would become the anchor tenant in "an incredible opportunity to revitalize and reinvest."
County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the proposal isn't just about the ballpark but rather potentially attracting new residences, commercial space, restaurants and retailers to the property.