Turning brownfields into healthfields in McComb, MS

McComb, MS hospital
A historic photo of the McComb City Hospital Building in McComb, MS. Photo via the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

One building in McComb, MS, could provide health care facilities for area residents and revitalize downtown at the same time. A federal brownfields grant is helping the small town achieve both these goals.

The McComb City Hospital building, originally constructed in 1911, was the area’s only hospital until the 1960s and when the Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center was built in 1969, the McComb hospital closed. Through the late 1980s the building was reused for a variety of purposes, none of which were able to generate long-term and sustainable use of the property.

City leaders identified the hospital property as an ideal location for a primary healthcare clinic. It’s centrally located in McComb and is within an area with a shortage of primary care facilities. Plus, its location close to downtown means that rehabilitating the building would contribute to broader economic development goals.

“Revitalizing the McComb City Hospital into a primary care clinic will address unmet healthcare resource needs in central McComb and will serve as a catalyst for future economic growth and revitalization of McComb’s downtown district,” said McComb Mayor Whitney Rawlings. “Many of my friends, neighbors and relatives were born in the hospital. It deserves to be preserved.”

The McComb hospital project is a great example of “brownfields to healthfields,” a strategy of cleaning up contaminated land and transforming it into community healthcare facilities. The first step for McComb was to determine the extent of the contamination, and in 2012 the city won a Brownfields Assessment Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to explore the site and plan for its cleanup.

“The Brownfields grant is accomplishing more than I ever considered,” said Mayor Rawlings. “It put us on the right path and has jump started the process of downtown revitalization.” The McComb City Hospital building project is just one part of the city’s commitment to revitalization of its downtown.

Towns like McComb need the BUILD Act
For towns like McComb, MS, redevelopment projects can yield huge economic benefits but are often too expensive or too technically challenging to accomplish on their own. Programs like the EPA Brownfields grants are key to making these projects possible.

A bill in Congress would make it easier for towns like McComb to revitalize brownfield sites. Earlier this year four Senators introduced The Brownfields, Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act of 2013, which would improve the EPA Brownfields Program and help it better make long-lasting and crucial investments in America’s towns and neighborhoods. If passed, the BUILD Act would help more communities like Valley, AL clean up and reuse brownfield sites.

Speak out for the BUILD Act: Ask your Senators to support the Act today.