The Rivera Building Brownfield Site Grant

The Rivera building, 357 10th Street, is being assessed for part of a $600,000 grant that Cochise County received from the Environmental Protection Agency for revitalizing brownfield sites. A brownfield site is a piece of property that was once in use and is now vacant and, often, derelict. You can read more about the grant in the press release here. Here’s a QnA with City Manager Jerene Watson and City Planner Peter Gardner about the project. Answers were edited for clarity.

Does the assessment of the Rivera building mean that the city will, for certain, receive funds?

What is currently funded is a assessment grant, so no improvements to the building will occur during this round. Following this round, there will be an effort to get grant funding to rehabilitate the building. What the current grant funds is a study of what is needed to be renovate and bring the building to standard for use (e.g., remove asbestos, lead based paint and other pollutants that may be found). Depending on the results of the assessment and testing future grant funds for cleaning and rehabilitation may be available. This is often the case.

Is the building currently owned and in use by the city?

Currently the building is used for storage and is city-owned, but not inhabited due to the condition that has issues and is exactly why it is being studied. 

Reportedly, the building is being used for storage, what are the plans, if it is revitalized, for use?

The city staff has had internal discussions only on using this facility as an innovation center for small business.  We have a seed effort to start that center in our library, to be launched this calendar year ideally, and then move it over to that building once it has been rehabilitated. This proposal has NOT gone to City Council and is not a policy or project formally — just early ideas. We also could sell the building once rehabilitated to the private sector for their use.

How specific are the rules for the fund use? What certainty is there that if the funds are received by the city they won’t get folded into the budget?

The grant is administered by Cochise County on behalf of the County and the various cities. The city does not have direct access to the funds. Potential future rehabilitation grants would also come with requirements that the funds be used only for that purpose.

There is no way funding could ever be folded into our budget for several reasons:

  • The planning grant was awarded to Cochise County, not any of the cities per se, and they are the recipients of the grant monies.
  • The County went out for RFP (request for proposals) and awarded the study to the engineering/design firm, Stantec. Dave Laney of Stantec is running the study task force; setting up the county-wide meetings; coordinating the efforts of the building site visits and other technical analysis; and has seated a citizen committee who helped chose the buildings throughout the county for study. We have three representatives from Douglas on that committee – Florencio Lopez of the Gadsden, Lawana Diffe of Two Flags Computers and Angelica García of Long Realty.
  • Any federal funds or public grants are highly specific in how money is used and it would be fraught with legalities and penalties if funding were ever misused and not spent for the purpose it was given.  You have to show evidence of how the money was spent and where it went/who it went to, etc. In this case, the city never received any of the funding because we supported the grant and were not the direct grant recipient, only a beneficiary.

Is this the only site being considered?

There are approximately ten additional sites under consideration in Douglas, and several times that elsewhere in the County. To be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for assessment under the grant several factors must be met, including reason to believe that the site is a brownfield and owner permission. At this point only the Rivera Building and a site in Wilcox have been approved for assessment, but more sites will be forthcoming.