Moving Pillsbury Forward, the group responsible for rehabilitating the site of the former Pillsbury Mills plant for future development, received a grant Thursday from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to aid in the continued clean up of the site.
The office of 13th Congressional District Rep. Nikki Budzinski (D-Ill.) announced the grant award in conjunction with the EPA, which will provide $787,135 in funds to help with remediation work on the site for several buildings on the property, such as the grocery mix building, bakery mix tower and the A-B mill. The work will mostly entail the removal of asbestos and lead paint in those facilities. Funding for the grants was provided through the bipartisan infrastructure legislation passed in 2021.
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Chris Richmond, president of Moving Pillsbury Forward, said that the funding would be used to essentially clean up parts of the property that had not been touched by the EPA during its emergency clean up back in 2017.
“They got 95% of everything cleaned up,” Richmond said. “What this will do is get the remainder cleaned up. We’re really excited about it.”
The remediation work, which is slated to begin this fall, is the next step in the continued clean up and eventual demolition of the former Pillsbury plant in order to make way for possible development at the site. Formerly home to a grain and flour plant with thousands of employees, the plant was closed in 2001 – 10 years after the company sold the plant to Cargill – and went into significant disrepair in the more than 20 years after the closure.
The removal of asbestos ended up leading to legal trouble for members of a demolition company who had been working with prior owners to clean the site, with violations of federal clean-air regulations leading to prison time for the company’s part-owner.
Since purchasing the site in March 2022, Richmond and his group have worked to clear the grounds, begin an environmental study of the site and demolish a pair two warehouses on the site that were in a significant stage of disrepair. They also began the process of applying for the EPA funds in November.
Richmond said that getting the kind of federal funding needed for the project is important, as the site is a “brownfield” development formerly used for industrial purposes.
“Private business generally does not have funding available,” Richmond said. “They just can’t put that kind of money into brownfield projects to make them viable for business, so this is a government function at the state and federal level to bring in funding so we can revitalize and redevelop areas just like the Pillsbury site here in Springfield.”
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Budzinski said the project would be a “transformative” one, in whichever form it takes after demolition, slated to start in 2024 after an environmental review of the site by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. She is also looking forward to continuing to secure future funding for future projects on the site, likely to be some kind of light or medium industrial development once the site is finally cleared.
“The work being done to redevelop the old Pillsbury Mills site will be transformative for our community – particularly for families on the east side of Springfield,” Budzinski said. “I look forward to being a strong partner to the folks at Moving Pillsbury Forward, including pushing to secure federal community project funding as we work to revitalize this dangerous site into an economic engine for our community.”
Richmond said that the group is excited to receive funding for the work to come at the site in the coming years from every level of government.
“This project has seen success because we have such a coordinated effort and the partnerships locally that got this started,” Richmond said. “Whether it be the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln – who gave us some seed money to get started – or our partnership with the Springfield Sangamon Growth Alliance – who is working on the economic redevelopment aspect of the site – or whether its the local neighborhood groups and community groups that have all pitched in to have their voice heard to design a project that can be successful, it’s just wonderful to see what good coordination and partnerships at the local level can do.”