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Armory Square project awarded funds to investigate contamination

The Armory Square renovation received more than $20,000 in state funds to investigate whether it needs to clean up the contaminated site on U.S. Highway 71 in Park Rapids.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced Wednesday that it awarded more than $1.6 million to investigate or clean up 14 contaminated sites in the state, including the Armory Square site.

The city is to receive $22,275 in investigation funds for the 0.43-acre site that is potentially contaminated with petroleum, said a press release issued by DEED.

The onetime site of a church, opera house, school and armory with an associated garage will be redeveloped for retail and food venues and for civic uses. The project will result in 17 new jobs and raise the tax base by $25,400, according to information the city submitted in its application.

DEED has awarded the grants under its Contamination Cleanup Grant Program for projects in Minneapolis (three), St. Paul (three), Hermantown, Grand Rapids, Mayer, Duluth, Carver County, St. Cloud and Virginia, in addition to the Park Rapids site.

"These grants will put formerly contaminated sites back into productive use and help create jobs," DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy said in a statement.

DEED cleanup grants, which are awarded twice a year, account for about 75 percent of the statewide public funding used for reclaiming polluted sites and brownfields. The remaining 25 percent comes from cities, counties and other local units of government, or private landowners and developers.

DEED  officials expect this round of grants to attract more than $53 million in private redevelopment investment across the state, resulting in 255 market-rate housing units, 165 affordable units, 184 new jobs and 123 retained jobs. Local property tax revenues will increase by about $1 million as a result of reclaiming 252 acres of formerly polluted land.