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Bemidji Regional Event Center gets DEED grant

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has awarded the city of Bemidji more than $500,000 to assist in cleanup efforts for the Bemidji Regional Event Center.

DEED announced on Tuesday that it will award $5.1 million to investigate or clean up 15 contaminated sites in the state.

The grants were awarded under DEED's Contamination Cleanup Grant Program. Recipients include five projects in Minneapolis, two in St. Paul, two in Mountain Iron, and others in Bemidji, Brooklyn Park, Columbia Heights, Hennepin County, Moorhead and Sherburne County.

"These grants are crucial for attracting private investment dollars for redevelopment projects in Minnesota," said DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy in a press release. "Thanks to this funding, contaminated sites, such as former dumps and gas stations, are being put back into productive use."

Bemidji will officially receive $506,040 for cleanup of the 125-acre south shore redevelopment area.

The site is contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, asbestos and trace metals, according to the DEED press release. The site formerly housed a rail yard, box factory, hardboard manufacturing plant and had other commercial and industrial uses.

But the area will be cleaned up and redeveloped to feature the 235,000-square-foot BREC and commercial development, including a planned hotel.

The project is expected to create 92 new jobs and result in an anticipated tax increase of $152,700, according to the press release.

The city last fall received a $52,000 grant for the investigation into environmental contamination. Because Bemidji already once received DEED's support, the city wasn't too surprised to learn that it was awarded a second grant.

"We were confident because we had gotten that Stage 2 (grant last fall)," said Rita Albrecht, the city's community development director.

Bemidji received notification of the grant Friday.

The city will sign a grant agreement with DEED and submit invoices for reimbursement from DEED, Albrecht explained.

The city's application referenced the city's Development Response Action Plan for responding to environmental issues found at the site.

"We knew some of the things we would need to clean up," Albrecht said. "Some or the larger costs are what we will use this funding for."

The city has budgeted about $1 million for environmental cleanup at the site, but City Manager John Chattin has said the city does not anticipate that much being spent.