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EPA Region 7 Transforming Brownfield Sites in Sutherland, Nebraska into Thriving Places
Summer 2013
Summary of EPA Technical Assistance
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 provided the Village of Sutherland, Nebraska, with technical assistance in 2011. The technical assistance was provided in part by contractor support using funding from EPAs Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization (OBLR) and Office of Underground Storage Tanks (OUST). Founded in 1891, Sutherland is home to approximately 1,200 residents along the historic Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30) in west-central Nebraska, roughly 20 miles west of North Platte. It rests between the North and South Platte rivers on the southern edge of the Sand Hills prairie. Incorporated as a Village in 1905, it still maintains that title and is proud to be the biggest little Village in Nebraska. The project location was identified through the EPA Region 7 inventory of abandoned gas stations, which was developed in 2007 and inventoried such sites along two historic highways in the Region, the former Lincoln Highway and the former Route 66. EPA, in partnership with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) and the U.S. Department of Agricultures Rural Development Program, provided planning support to Village officials as they considered revitalizing the downtown area, including four former gas station sites, two of which serve as gateways to the Village. Abandoned gas stations may pose The technical assistance provided potential environmental and public to the Village of Sutherland is a health hazards due to underground clear example that shows how storage tanks that remain after the being environmentally conscious can bring positive growth and stations close. By addressing these development for our small, rural conditions, including potential communities. Karl Brooks, EPA contamination and liability issues, Region 7 Administrator these sites can be made viable for reuse that benefits the community while removing eyesores and transforming them into community assets. EPA, in partnership with NDEQ, assessed the environmental conditions posed by the underground tanks and found little or no contamination.

Workshops Provided Community with Revitalization Plan

SRA International, Inc., and HDR, Inc., provided contract support for this Four abandoned gas stations project. They assisted EPA in hosting a Community Design Workshop in October 2011, resulting in an overall Revitalization Strategy for downtown Sutherland. This strategy then provided a blueprint for how the Village could redevelop the abandoned gas stations, at the same time helping create a vision for a more sustainable community. Initially, some of the Village members were skeptical of the value of the workshop and of working with EPA. According to Sutherland Village Clerk Samantha Boggs, Folks in this part of Nebraska run away from EPA. One business owner who attended had to be assured that EPA was not out to get him or the Village. Afterward, however, the Village was quite impressed with the workshop. EPA contractor support included: Developing reuse options and scenarios for four former gas station sites Identifying Sutherlands assets and opportunities Soliciting community input on the future vision of Sutherland

Contractor Report Recommendations

The contractors created recommendations for redevelopment concepts expressed by the community. Village officials then used many of the recommendations to move forward with marketing new business opportunities and promoting revitalization of the downtown. Key elements of redevelopment in the report or Revitalization Strategy included: 1. Downtown Redevelopment 2. Gateways 3. Corridor Enhancement 4. Commercial Opportunities 5. Residential Opportunities 6. Parks, Open Space, and Trails
Two refurbished former gas stations

The report also laid out a vision of Sutherlands revitalization from local stakeholders ideas on how to reuse the former gas station sites, rights of way, and other sections of downtown. The Sutherland community learned that the former gas station sites could not only improve the environment, but also change the aesthetics of their downtown. Public rights of way could provide other opportunities to enhance the appearance of downtown and positively affect the environment as well. This could be done by using green infrastructure (e.g., natural landscaping) to accommodate stormwater that would normally flow off site. Additionally, green infrastructure can help improve the flow of traffic and create safer commuter corridors by separating two-way traffic. Improvements in sidewalks, crosswalks, parking, and transportation flow can also help transform the downtown into a welcoming destination. The Village is looking into other improvements such as streetscapes (e.g., lighting/lampposts, benches) and greenery (e.g., flower pots, trees, green infrastructure), which can make the community more walkable, thereby reducing automobile use and improving air quality.
Since the technical assistance, the Village has deemed two commercial buildings unsafe and has demolished one. There will be a new building built on the lot. EPA showed that it can be a simple process. They came and showed what the town could be, and then set up steps the town could follow. Samantha Boggs, Village Clerk of Sutherland

How the Community Leveraged Results

In February 2012, the Village set up the Sutherland Growth Committee (SGC). The SGC continually referred to the EPA Revitalization Strategy for guidance. Since formed, the SGC has: Demolished one dilapidated structure in the downtown area and sold property to an adjacent commercial property. Secured $10K of funding from Mid-Nebraska Community Action ($1K) and Lincoln County Convention Bureau ($9K) to restore one of the Community design workshop participants publicly-owned gas station sites. Received labor and supply donations for a publicly-owned gas station cleanup that helped instill community pride. Worked with NDEQs Petroleum Remediation Section that provided a comfort letter stating that one of the gas stations was investigated and no further actions were required. The site is now being used by a local business. Received $160,620 in U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant funding for the rehabilitation of five homes for low-income families. Cleaned up a privately-owned former gas station site that will be rehabilitated in time for the Lincoln Highway 100 Year Anniversary celebration in the summer of 2013, where travelers can stop and take pictures. Potential uses of the other former gas stations include: a leased caf, a public stopping point with a kiosk and restrooms, and a small museum, which are all being evaluated by the SGC. All of this has been possible through the Village of Sutherland accepting EPAs technical assistance, along with support from state and other federal agencies.

For More Information

Lead EPA Contact: David Doyle, EPA Region 7, Lenexa, KS U.S. EPA Office of Sustainable Communities U.S. EPA Office of Brownfields & Land Revitalization