The city of Portland is one of 20 communities to receive a national grant to conduct a long-term planning effort for East Bayside, an up-and-coming neighborhood that has attracted artists, food entrepreneurs and immigrants.

The Greater Portland Council of Governments was selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to receiving a $200,000 Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grant, the city announced Wednesday. That money will be used to plan the future of the once-industrial area on the fringe of downtown Portland.

The East Bayside neighborhood was built on contaminated land fill, much of which is debris from the Great Fire of 1866. The area’s previous life as an industrial center has also contributed to pollution that must be cleaned before the area can be redeveloped.

“We’re very excited to have been chosen for this funding, which will allow us to put in place a community vision for the future of the East Bayside neighborhood,” Mayor Michael Brennan said in a written statement. “Building upon the many successful light industrial uses, the plan will explore how to best develop these brownfield sites and the rest of East Bayside in order to enhance a thriving mixed-use district.”

The planning process will begin in May and last for two years. The effort will include developing an inventory of brownfield sites, community forums and conversations about the future of the community, and drafting a set of recommendations.

The effort is expected to leverage $45 million in public and private investment that is already planned for housing and infrastructure projects, according to the city’s press release.

City officials estimate that 17 percent, or 22 acres, of East Bayside’s 130 acres could be contaminated Brownfield sites.

City Planning Director Jeff Levine said the process will help lay the groundwork to create a neighborhood master plan. It will also give property owners and developers information about the types of contaminants in the land, so they can plan and budget for clean-up costs.

“It’s very different to clean up a site that is going to be a park, versus one that is going to be a parking lot,” Levine said. Eleven groups have agreed to participate in the project, including several businesses: Redfern Properties, Coffee By Design, Urban Farm Fermentory, East Bayside Studios and Ten Ten Pie.

Eli Cayer, the founder of the Urban Farm Fermentory, an experimental fermentation center at 200 Anderson St., said that most of the land in East Bayside is contaminated, giving its industrial past.

“Anything that is going to help clean up this area is a good thing,” Cayer said.

Developer Jonathan Culley of Redfern Properties also said he hopes the grant will make it easier to clean up contaminated sites.

Redfern is currently seeking planning approvals for a mixed use development at 89 Anderson St. that would include first floor commercial uses, including a restaurant, and 53 market rate apartments on the upper three floors.

“We’re excited about what’s happening in East Bayside,” Culley said. “It’s a dynamic, changing neighborhood. We see it as an integral part of the city’s growth.”

East Bayside is the area between Interstate 295, Franklin Street, Congress Street and Washington Avenue. It was last studied in 2009 by students at the University of Southern Maine’ Muskie School for Public Service. At that time, the group noted that the area was the most diverse census tract in the state, with only 29 percent of the residents being white, compared top nearly 97 percent statewide.

The city said in a press release Wednesday that East Bayside continues to be one of the poorest U.S. Census tracts in the state.

According to 2014 data from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, 54 percent of neighborhood residents lived below the poverty line — the highest percentage in the city. It also had the highest percentage of minorities in the city.

The Muskie School study recommended a variety of area improvements to improve the pedestrian experience, including landscaping, sidewalks, lighting and bike lanes. The study also called for the neighborhood to work with the city to develop a master plan and reduce the size of Franklin Street.

The city said in a press release that the planning project should make it easier for the city to receive grant funding for road and transportation projects.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @randybillings