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EPA to assist Pink Elephant Project

Posted: Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Contaminated with asbestos and lead paint, the Pink Elephant building on Sixth Street (Highway 160) in Alamosa will be abated and demolished in coming months. Courier file photo by Ruth Heide

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — The “Pink Elephant,” an Alamosa downtown eyesore, grew a bit closer to extinction yesterday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected the Alamosa County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC) to receive a $200,000 competitive Brownfields cleanup grant to remove contamination at the former Pink Elephant property at Sixth and State in Alamosa, the EPA announced on Wednesday.

In December the Alamosa County Economic Development Corporation bought most of the quarter of a block that includes the Pink Elephant building except for the building housing Sicc & Twisted, which is still a potential part of the project.

Following the EPA’s announcement of Brownfields grant funding on Wednesday, ACEDC Executive Director Randy Wright said he was not certain the project would receive the full $200,000 that was requested but was hopeful it would.

“It sounded pretty positive,” he said. “That is a very integral part of us getting the Pink Elephant taken care of.”

Without the EPA funding, ACEDC would have to seek more assistance from the community to remove asbestos and lead paint in the existing buildings. Speaking to the Alamosa city council last fall, Wright estimated costs for abatement of asbestos and lead paint at about $233,000, with demolition and disposal costs estimated at $173,000.

At that time the city committed $100,000 to the project.

Wright said yesterday he did not know yet when the EPA grant money would be available but would work to help relocate current tenants before any abatement and demolition work proceeded.

“It’s really a big deal for us to move forward on that project,” he said.

Since the late 19th century, the Pink Elephant site has been used for a number of commercial and residential purposes, including a post office, jewelry store, candy store, tailor and boarding house. Most recently it has housed Trujillo’s on Tap, Guatemex and other businesses.

Wright said when he was hired, this was the first project he was asked to address, so getting to this point is a great measure of success not only for ACEDC but for him personally.

“We are just excited,” he said. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

Wednesday’s announcement is part of $62.5 million in EPA Brownfields funds awarded to 240 grant recipients across the nation to assess, clean up and redevelop contaminated properties. 

“EPA Brownfields grants open doors by helping communities like Alamosa transform blighted properties into public and economic assets,” said EPA acting regional administrator, Howard Cantor. “These investments will address contamination and create new opportunities for people to live, play, and do business.”

Once cleanup and demolition are complete, the Alamosa County Economic Development Corporation will redevelop the site as retail and/or restaurant businesses to complement the Colorado Welcome Center and historic train depot across the street.    

In posing the Pink Elephant Project to the Alamosa city council last fall, Wright said that in a period of about three years the city would get its $100,000 investment back through new sales tax revenue. He estimated the businesses going into the approximately 16,500 square feet of retail space would generate about $32,000 new sales tax per year.

Sen. Mark Udall congratulated ACEDC on receiving the EPA grant.

“The Pink Elephant site has had multiple uses since the late 1800s, but the buildings at the site are contaminated with asbestos and lead, posing a health risk to the nearby residents,” he said. “These competitive grant funds will help the Alamosa County Economic Development Corporation clean up contamination at the site and help to rejuvenate the area by bringing in new businesses and local jobs.”

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet added, “Communities like Alamosa in Colorado are striving to promote economic development by revitalizing unused properties to attract new businesses that will create jobs and generate economic activity. This grant will help the Alamosa County EDC redevelop the old Pink Elephant property and create new opportunities for Coloradans to live and work.”

There are an estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated sites in the United States. Under EPA’s Brownfields program, more than 20,000 properties have been assessed, and more than 850 properties have been cleaned up. EPA’s Brownfields investments have also leveraged more than $19 billion in overall cleanup and redevelopment funding from public and private sources.

On average $17.79 is leveraged for every EPA Brownfields grant dollar spent. These investments resulted in approximately 87,000 jobs nationwide. When Brownfields are addressed, nearby property values can increase 2-3 percent. 

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