The Northwest Indiana Brownfields Coalition (NWIBC) is a regional coalition comprised of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA), the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), and the cities of Gary, Hammond and East Chicago in Lake County, Indiana.
These historic urban core cities were important centers of manufacturing and industry during the first half of the 20th century. However, by the early 1980s overseas competition had decimated the industry at the heart of the region, steel manufacturing, and most major employers in the Coalition area began downsizing or closing. At its peak, the Northwest Indiana steel industry employed 60,000 people; today, that figure is about 7,000.
As a result, population in the three Coalition cities has declined anywhere from 14% to 47%. Thousands of brownfield sites now dominate the cities’ impoverished neighborhoods and business districts, impacting the health and welfare of residents, area waterways and Lake Michigan, and impeding the revitalization of these once-successful cities.
The Coalition was formed to create a regional group that would support the revitalization of Gary, Hammond and East Chicago. Though these cities are separate entities, they share boundaries and have similar demographics and brownfield concerns. Individually they have supported cleanup and redevelopment efforts, but the problem is so large that they have struggled to sustain and grow individual programs.
The Coalition leverages broad-based regional support for brownfield cleanup to benefit the residents of these cities, create jobs, spur business development, protect community and environmental health and restore natural resources. The 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan (CRP) details a cohesive vision uniting these individual cities and giving them a way to improve their own communities while supporting surrounding communities. By forming a Coalition with regional development (RDA) and planning (NIRPC) organizations, the cities can address their brownfield concerns on a regional level.
The coalition applied for and received a 2014 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields Assessment Grant. The RDA served as the lead agency and grant recipient/administrator. The total grant award was $600,000 – including $400,000 in Hazardous Substance Assessment Grant funds and $200,000 in Petroleum Assessment Grant funds. As of 2019, all assessment grant funding has been expended helping to pay for asseement work and cleanup planning on approximately 27 sites.
The coalition was also awarded $800,000 from EPA to establish a Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) to clean up contaiminated sites. The RLF is also managed by the RDA. As of 2019, approximately $700,000 of the RLF had been committed to help fund cleanup actions at about 30 locations.
In 2019, EPA awarded a $600,000 grant through their Brownfields Program to a coalition that includes NIRPC, the Northwest Indiana Forum Foundation, and the RDA. The grant will be used to conduct further environmental site assessments, prepare cleanup plans, and implement community outreach activities. NIRPC will act as fiscal agent, the RDA will handle project management and the Forum will assume a marketing role.
If you are interested in applying for an RLF loan, application forms are linked below in .pdf format.
Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority
Jillian Huber, Grants Manager
9800 Connecticut Dr.
Crown Point, IN 46307
NorthwesternIndiana Regional Planning Commission
Kathy Luther, Chief of Staff, Environmental
219-763-6060 ext. 127
6100 Southport Rd.
Portage, IN 46368