Valley, AL finds a new use for old textile mills with the help of brownfields redevelopment

Langdale Mill in Valley, AL
The Langdale Mill in Valley, AL. Photo via The City of Valley, AL.

After operating for more than a hundred years, the Langdale and Riverdale textile mills were a central part of Valley, AL’s heritage and economy. With the help of a Brownfields grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Valley is working to make the former mills part of life in Valley once again.

The Langdale and Riverdale Mills were built in 1866 along the Chattahoochee River on the eastern edge of Alabama. The city that is now Valley, AL was built up around the mills, and they served as the economic heart of the area for over a century.

When the mills closed in the late 1990’s, the City of Valley decided to purchase and redevelop the properties for two reasons. Both buildings are on the Alabama Historic Register as historical and cultural landmarks, and the City recognized how important they are to the area’s heritage. But when the mills closed hundreds of jobs were lost, and Valley knew it needed a new model for economic prosperity. Local leaders recognized an opportunity to transform the Langdale Mill, which is easily accessible to downtown Valley and close to Valley City Hall, making it ideal for redevelopment. The City decided to reinvest in its heritage and redevelop the mill sites into a mix of residential, commercial, recreational, and cultural facilities and amenities.

Before the City could begin redevelopment, however, it faced a formidable challenge. Hazardous materials had been left behind when the factories closed: asbestos-contaminated materials and three 15,000 gallon industrial storage tanks needed to be cleaned up. Overall, the cleanup was estimated to cost several hundred thousand dollars.

To help with the substantial cleanup costs the City applied for and received four EPA Brownfields grants in 2008 totaling $560,000. The grants included funds to conduct a petroleum assessment, to asses the potential for recycling and reusing building materials and to clean up both properties. The Appalachian Regional Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture also contributed funds to the project. To date, Valley’s grants have helped leverage $994,300 for the mills’ redevelopment.

Towns like Valley, AL need the BUILD Act
For towns like Valley, AL 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 Valley to redevelop 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.

There are over 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites in America. The BUILD Act could help turn each of them into economically productive properties once more.