PORTLAND — The federal government is giving $1.5 million to three Portland organizations and $800,000 to two South Portland projects to redevelop contaminated properties.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Program last week awarded $6 million to redevelopment projects throughout the state, including $500,000 each to The Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine, Maine Port Authority, and Portland Housing Authority.

The city of South Portland was awarded $300,000 in assessment work and the South Portland Housing Authority $500,000 for cleanup efforts.

A brownfield site, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is a property that contains a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant that could make reuse or redevelopment of the site more difficult and cost-prohibitive.

“Brownfields grants play a key role in creating new economic activity and jobs in Maine, revitalizing communities and spurring redevelopment to benefit their residents,” U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said in a statement announcing the awards. “I’m glad to see the EPA investing in Maine’s local infrastructure.”

“The Brownfields Program has proven to be a major benefit to the overall health and vitality of Maine communities,” U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said in a joint statement.

Suzanne Olson, executive director of the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine, said the money will help the museum transition from 142 Free St. to a new multi-million-dollar building on Thompson’s Point, a mile and a half away. The museum has been on Free Street since 1993, when it moved from Stevens Avenue.

“Thompson’s Point is a former railroad yard and manufacturing site and is now being transformed into an amazing place for people of all ages. The EPA grant and other brownfield support from the city of Portland and Greater Portland Council of Governments will help us convert the post-industrial site into a healthy, vital space for children and families to learn and play together,” Olson said. “We are approaching our fundraising benchmark for a construction start and hope to have the new museum and theatre open to the public in 2020.”

The site, according to the EPA, is contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PCBs, arsenic and metals, and contains residual petroleum contamination.

The new museum will be a three-story, 30,000-square-foot structure with a 100-seat theater and an aquatic exhibition with marine life touch tanks. The site will also have a garden, picnic area, and climbing structure.

Jay Waterman, development director for the Portland Housing Authority, said the organization will use the grant to mitigate contaminated soil at a site it is redeveloping on Front Street in East Deering. The plan calls for the demolition of 50 housing units and construction of up to 113 new units of mixed-income family housing.

Waterman said the site, just east of Payson Park, is contaminated with arsenic and lead and some debris left over when it was informally used as a city dump. The project will be done in two phases, starting in fall 2020.

Brooks More, development director for the South Portland Housing Authority, said his organization will use the money, along with some community block grant funds, for abatement and demolition of the former St. John the Evangelist Church and former church school building at 611 Main St.

“The buildings were built in the 1960s, so there is quite a bit of asbestos and some lead as well,” More said.

A four-story building with 42 residential apartments and 7,000 square feet of commercial/residential space will be constructed on the former church site. More said 33 of the units will be income-restricted and nine will be market rate.

Site abatement will take place this fall and construction of the new building will begin next year.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter:@mkelleynews

The Portland Housing Authority has received a federal grant to clean up contamination at a housing complex it is redeveloping on Front Street, near Baxter Boulevard.

The South Portland Housing Authority will use federal brownfields grant funding to demolish the former St. John the Evangelist Church at 611 Main St. The building, constructed in the 1960s, contains asbestos and lead.

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