U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, along with State Representative Harold Mitchell, Jr., and various federal state and local officials, along with private sector representatives participated in a tour and celebration of the ReGenesis Project, a successful collaboration credited with revitalizing Spartanburg, and the surrounding community.
“At the core of EPA's mission is an unwavering pursuit of environmental justice because pollution and climate impacts are a barrier to economic opportunity, blocking the path to middle-class security,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “With President Obama's leadership, EPA is ramping up efforts to cut air and water pollution, expanding public outreach, enforcing laws to defend public health, and holding polluters accountable. And through President Obama's Climate Action Plan, EPA is taking historic action to fight the economic and public health risks of a changing climate by cutting carbon pollution from power plants.”
Founded by State Representative Mitchell, the ReGenesis Project’s mission was to represent neighborhood interests in cleaning up contaminated sites and revitalizing the surrounding community. In the 1970’s, the Arkwright and Forest Park communities were residential areas that existed next to industrial areas of Spartanburg as the result of few zoning restrictions, and land use controls. The communities also had two Superfund sites nearby. By the late 1990s, then-community a resident, Mitchell began to link neighborhood health concerns to the pollution in his community. Mitchell took the initiative to interview residents, conduct research on abandoned and contaminated sites, and convene community meetings. ReGenesis leveraged an initial $20,000 grant from the EPA Office of Environmental Justice into more than $270 million in revitalization, clean up, housing, job training, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and infrastructure.
Today’s events highlighted the project’s longevity by demonstrating its sustainability as a successful public-private community partnership, involving residents, local industry, and government agencies at the local, state, and federal level. The partnership was recently honored by the American Planning Association, receiving the National Planning Excellent Award for Advancing Diversity and Social Change (in honor of Paul Davidoff).
As a result, the partnership led to a series of community design charrettes and a new vision for both neighborhoods. Area residents have experienced significant progress. They now benefit from a new, $2 million community recreation center, new housing, a much needed highway, additional green space, and new job opportunities.
Other notable successes include:
- Working with 124 partners to raise public awareness, and reverse the health impacts that industrial toxic wastes have had on the Spartanburg region;
- Addressing environmental justice issues in the community, resulting in several site cleanups, infrastructure improvements, job training opportunities, quality of life improvements;
- Establishing six (6) ReGenesis Health Care Centers that remain dedicated to reducing and eliminating economic, racial, social, gender, and age barriers to foster wellness in the community; and
- Construction of over 500 new affordable/workforce housing units, senior housing, a neighborhood park, and an award-winning community center.
Through collaborative efforts, developing reuse plans for formerly contaminated property which includes building a solar farm, an urban golf course and an advance manufacturing learning center on the former Arkwright Dump and IMC Sites. The ReGenesis Partnership was selected as a pilot project by the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice in 2000 and also served as a model for EPA’s Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving Model.