Three Tampa Bay area communities will be able to make improvements thanks to their share of almost a million dollars in grants from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Lealman community in Pinellas County, the University Area in Tampa, and the city of Brooksville will each receive $300,000 to clean up contaminated properties and develop community projects.
Representatives from the three communities came to the University Area Community Center in Tampa to receive their checks Wednesday.
Brooksville Mayor William Kemerer was delighted that his small city of 8,000 residents was selected by the EPA.
The southwest entryway into the Hernando County city was last used in the mid twentieth century, when it contained gas stations and auto repair shops. The mayor said environmental experts believe the ground there contains contaminants and possibly buried gasoline tanks.
“This will now provide us with the opportunity to go in there and evaluate the entire area,” he said. “We can understand what’s underground there and what contamination may or may not be there.”
After the land is cleared of contaminants, the city will try to partner with private landowners to develop the area.
University Area Community Development Corporation COO Josie Rocco said a portion of their grant will go toward developing a cultural center. According to Rocco, it will serve as a hub for the community and will feature a garden, seven-acre park, and classrooms.
Pat Gerard, Pinellas County Commissioner, said their grant will focus on the Lealman community.
According to Gerard, that area lacks sidewalks, proper lighting, and smoothly paved roads.
“The Lealman community is a pretty big neighborhood,” Gerard said. “There are about 40,000 people who live there but it’s been pretty depressed and neglected for a long time.”
The three grants are called Brownsfield grants, which give money to cities to assess environmental risks and clean up any contaminants that are found.
They also encourage development in neglected areas - Rocco hopes the grant will bring “love, light, and hope” to the University Area community.