Okemah city officials are looking for investors who can turn old gas stations into profitable new businesses. Thanks to a new grant program, regulators at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission have funding to help make the transition easier for entrepreneurs.
The Commission’s Brownfield Program received $300,000 to cover the costs of environmental assessments, so business owners don’t have pay large costs upfront to clean up old pollution leftover at closed Okemah gas stations. Madeline Dillner, Brownfield Program Project Coordinator at the agency, said the program is a “win-win” for the community and for real estate investors looking to sell or buy gas station sites that meet the grant requirements.
“These facilities can be very difficult to sell because of the environmental problems that might be part of the property,” Dillner said. “At the same time, buyers interested in turning sites into other businesses can’t always afford the price tag on cleanup.”
Okemah Economic Development Director Andy Tucker heard about the Brownfield Program and invited Dillner to present at a town hall meeting in November 2019. There she found enthusiastic supporters, including city officials and entrepreneurs. She applied for the grant and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Corporation Commission $300,000 on Oct. 1.
Dillner said there are 10 gas station facilities identified as priority sites in the Okemah area.
“Owners of those facilities, as well as other owners of former gas stations interested in selling those facilities should contact Andy Tucker at the Okemah Chamber of Commerce and a real estate agency to get the property listed,” Dillner said. “Those interested in buying qualifying facilities in order to turn it into another business should also contact Mr. Tucker.”
There are two environmental assessments that have to be done on the properties. The first, known as a “Phase I” assessment, must be done before a buyer purchases property. The Commission’s Brownfield Program will perform this assessment at no cost.
“After the assessment is complete, the buyer will have 180 days to purchase the property,” Dillner said. “Then, the EPA grant will pay for the ‘Phase II’ assessment work that needs to be done after the purchase is made.”
For more information, contact Okemah Economic Development Director Andy Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org or OCC Brownfield Program staff at OGBrownfields@occ.ok.gov. Visit the Okemah Brownfields Project Hub website for more information related to this project: https://the-okemah-brownfields-project-occokc.hub.arcgis.com/