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Fairpark redevelopment gains notice

TUPELO — A partnership between the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the City of Tupelo in redeveloping the Fairpark District has won a regional Phoenix Award.

The award will be presented in November at the National Brownfield Conference in New Orleans and will recognize the redevelopment of the contaminated property at the old fairgrounds into the popular downtown Fairpark District.

In 2000, during the acquisition of property that included the former Long’s Laundry, the city learned from environmental studies that the soil and groundwater beneath the site had been contaminated by chlorinated solvents. The project stalled until 2003, when the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, on behalf of the city, applied for Targeted Brownfield Assessment assistance through MDEQ.

“We were dead in the water until the brownfields folks at MDEQ came to us and helped. Up to that point, the city had spent close to $200,000 in environmental studies with no clear end point in sight,” said Debbie Brangenberg, director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association.

MDEQ was able to develop a strategy for the environmental assessment to be completed, for liability protection to be secured, and for the site to be redeveloped in a manner that was protective of human health and the environment. In 2004, demolition of the former dry cleaner began, and the transformation of the properties into Fairpark had begun. Liability protection was secured for the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency through a Brownfield Agreement with the Mississippi Commission on Environmental Quality in 2006, and the city saved approximately $87,000 in planning and assessment services provided by MDEQ to address the environmental conditions at the site.

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