A $200,000 grant has been awarded for the environmental clean-up of the former Parker Seal plant in Berea. The Brownfields Program grant was secured from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the Kentucky River Foothills Development Council Inc. (KRFDC) in partnership with Fahe in Berea.
Located at 103 Lewis Street, the Parker Seal property is said to be impacted by trichloroethene and debris that remained after the plant closed in 2001. The Brownfields Program provides EPA funding for cleanup and reuse of contaminated properties.
Part of the proceeds from the grant will allow the KRFDC to stage neighborhood forums informing local residents about the remediation process. The meetings will also allow KRFDC to gather citizen input regarding the kinds of economic development projects that could result once the chemicals and debris are cleared from the site.
Potential uses of the property include a senior daycare center, a service center with business incubator space, a food distribution/farmer’s market where local producers can sell their goods, and possibly a community meeting center. Nothing will be decided, however, until local residents are allowed to give their input on the plan. “There will be a lot of community engagement,” said Fahe representative Aaron Phelps. “There won’t be something coming into the neighborhood that people don’t want.”
Karen Atkins of the KRFDC said the project has enormous potential to impact Berea’s economy and quality of life. Not only will the dilapidated plant get a much-needed makeover, the environmental cleanup could potentially improve the quality of air and water in the area. Additionally, the resulting economic development is expected to spur the creation of new businesses, new jobs, improve property values, and contribute to Berea’s tax base, all of which benefits the city, according to Atkins. “Working together on this project with Fahe and the residents of Berea will strengthen the community,” Atkins said.
The Parker Seal building opened in 1951, becoming one of Berea’s first major industries. But since closing in 2001, the facility has fallen into disrepair and has been a target for vandalism and other illegal activities. A statement released by Fahe noted the Brownfields Program grant could mark a positive turning point for the neighborhood: “By performing the Brownfields cleanup, KRFDC is allowing the building and the grounds to become usable for redevelopment, which will provide a positive transformation to the landscape and an economic and social boon for the community.”
Both KRFDC and Fahe are entities engaged in promoting rural economic development and providing opportunities for residents in need. Berea Mayor Steve Connelly noted this latest KRFDC/Fahe partnership could be a catalyst for more investment in small businesses in the area. “It’s [Parker Seal] redevelopment would be good for the neighborhood, and, I think, good for the long-term entrepreneurship efforts of the city,” Connelly said. “The more community entrepreneurship we have that keeps our money local, the more success our city will have in the long-run.”