These are great times to investigating potential brownfield projects in Ohio. The State has two pots of money available under its Clean Ohio brownfield program. 1) the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund (CORF); and 2) the Clean Ohio Assistance Fund (COAF). CORF is a competitive grant process where applications are pooled into rounds and the top projects in that round receive funding. Under COAF, projects are evaluated on an individual basis and decisions are made by the Director of the Department of Development.
COAF- Areas Eligible to Apply for Funding is Greatly Expanded
This month, the Ohio Department of Development announced a major change to COAF-greatly expanding areas eligible to submit COAF applications. Properties eligible to request COAF funding are those located in a "inner city area", a "labor surplus area" or a "situational distress area" as defined by O.R.C. 122.65(H). Each year the Ohio Department of Development releases a map of the State that identifies which areas fall under one of the three categories and could apply.
On May 1, 2009, the Ohio Priority Investment Area Map was modified to reflect the recent changes made to the Federal Labor Surplus map. Under the old map 41 counties and certain cities were designated "priority investment areas" based on one of the three categories. The new map designates 83 counties in Ohio as Labor Surplus Areas. This includes all of Cuyahoga County and most of the surrounding Counties.
All areas designated on the Priority Investment Map are therefore eligible to file applications for the Clean Ohio Assistance Fund for assessment grants of up to $300,000 and cleanup grants of up to $750,000. COAF will have approximately $12 million for new grants in the coming year. Applications can be submitted on a rolling basis (no deadline).
The Ohio Department of Development also modified the policies governing COAF. One notable change is the prioritization of Phase II Environmental Assessment projects. Here is what the Department said about this change:
In order to maximize assistance to distressed communities during the economic crisis and meet a critical need to prepare sites for cleanup and redevelopment, the Clean Ohio Assistance Fund will now reserve 75% for funding Phase II Environmental Assessments grants and 25% for funding cleanup grants.
CORF's - Redevelopment Ready Track
If you are looking at a project with much higher clean up costs than $750,000, then CORF is still a great option. The State recently provided more flexibility to the program. Last summer, the Ohio Department of Development made a major change to the CORF program by adding the "redevelopment ready track." Before this change an applicant for CORF had to identify in its application a committed end user post clean up. Under the "redevelopment ready track" an applicant could qualify for up to $2 million in grant funds to pay for clean up costs even without an end user.
A significant amount of cleanup funding is available in the upcoming rounds of CORF. Funding for Round 7 (deadline July 25th) and Round 8 will total $48 million in the coming year ($24 million per round), which is the largest amount the program has experienced in its history.
Unlike other States, Ohio has a lot of funding available for brownfield investigation and clean up. Over the last year the State has increased the flexibility in the program and expanded areas within the State eligible for funding. While the economy is down, it is a great time to explore development options for brownfield sites. As the economy comes back the competitiveness of these programs will increase.