MANKATO — Of $5.3 million in contamination cleanup grants awarded across Minnesota in the latest funding round, just three projects totaling $1.46 million are outside the Twin Cities metro area.
But two of the three were Mankato projects, continuing the city’s recent success in getting state assistance for redevelopment of vacant and underused properties, mostly near downtown.
The city initially applied for three grants but one was dropped when the financing plan for the $25 million Gateway West affordable housing and day-care project near Cub Foods West fell through.
“We actually ended up withdrawing our application for the Gateway site, once we learned it didn’t secure funding,” said Kristin Prososki, associate director of housing and economic development.
Even with the city’s request down to two projects, Mankato still ended up receiving $658,000 from the Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Contamination Investigation and Cleanup Grant program.
An Old Town redevelopment that includes a contaminated former dry cleaning business received $242,000.
And the Bridge Plaza project at the intersection of Second and Mulberry streets received nearly $416,000 — almost the entire requested amount of $420,000.
The reason for Mankato’s outsized success?
“I would say we have very good projects,” Prososki said. “Kind of our recipe for success is applying when the time is right.”
That means projects that are ready to go almost as soon as the grants are received, something that matters to DEED officials who want to see results rather than grant funds sitting unused for months or years.
“They do want to see that there will be that development outcome from the projects,” she said.
In the case of Bridge Plaza, the $16 million five-story building is already rising. So the contamination cleanup grant on the long-vacant lot will be a reimbursement for removal of contaminated soils already paid for by developer Mike Brennan.
“Fortunately, that program can take a look back at work that’s already underway, provided that it’s within a certain timeframe,” Prososki said.
The only other grant awarded in greater Minnesota was $803,000 to Faribault to deal with contaminants on a nearly three-acre parcel used at various times as a petroleum storage business, a city dump and city public works department operations. A 111-unit apartment building is planned for the site.
The largest grant of $1.2 million statewide went to Bloomington where a 182-unit senior housing project and day care center are planned for a 7-acre lot contaminated with asbestos and Freon12.