Fourth RFP is the Charm for Howardville after Posting on Brownfield Listings
After years of unrelenting work and three unsuccessful Requests for Proposals (RFPs) went unanswered, the City of Howardville, Missouri is moving forward in the cleanup of its historic high school.
A fourth RFP was published on BrownfieldListings.com when it launched its beta this summer ahead of the National Brownfields Training Conference (Brownfields 2015), where Howardville posted its project listing and RFP to an online deal room for Brownfields 2015 attendees and powered by Brownfield Listings.
We continued to feature Howardville’s redevelopment on BrownfieldListings.com in the days and weeks that followed, helping to shine a light on the terrific preparation, work and vision already achieved on the project. The entire Brownfield Listings team is thrilled Howardville’s long wait is over, and we are proud to have played a part in their progress towards redevelopment.
Redevelopment of the historic high school is not only restoring an important piece of Howardville’s past but is a main ingredient in its renewed future.
Howardville is a small town of just 383 residents in the far southeast “Bootheel” region of Missouri. In 1957, Howardville School was built, and for years was the best and most exemplary public high school in the area. The economy stumbled in the decades that followed, and by 1985 the school was forced to shut down. The property was acquired by the City in 1992, who used it as a city hall for another decade until a leaking roof forced them to abandon the building for good. A Head Start program was able to use a part of the building unaffected by the leak, but most of the structure was unusable due to the leak, asbestos, lead-based paint and suspected mold, as well as some limited petroleum on the shop floor left over from industrial arts classes.
But then the not-for-profit Howardville Community Betterment (HCB) formed an ad hoc committee in 2011 with a mission to rebuild the school. It was the only building in the community that could satisfy many of the community’s needs in a single development. HCB’s committed and energetic leader, Vannessa Frazier, started finding ways to turn around the Howardville School and give it new life. Vannessa managed to submit an application on behalf of the City of Howardville, to the U.S. EPA’s Brownfields Cleanup Program and won despite stiff competition. HCB first obtained a grant to pay for Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments, then $200,000 more to pay for the cleanup and as an education tax exempt organization. Howardville also received a crucial $9000 scholarship to send a qualified citizen to a “train the trainer” seminar, a 13 day certification which then allowed the HCB, partnering with National PETE, to train local workers for the project.
Beyond cleaning up the building and making it safe, Vannessa and the HCB had a bigger vision: to preserve the high school and simultaneously return it to its prominent role as a positive catalyst for the whole region.
In the middle of the five-county Bootheel region, the size and location of this redevelopment opportunity could benefit the community and surrounding area in myriad ways. Acknowledging its storied past, it would be listed on the historical register. Looking to the future, the restored building would help anchor the rural region as a community and health center as well as a hub for education and job training. The environmental cleanup would use as many local contractors and employees as possible to give an economic boost to Howardville and the region. And the work would be documented to serve as a model and to educate others on how they could work similar turnarounds in their communities.
But this redevelopment opportunity was a tall order for a small, rural town like Howardville. And for some time, HCB was having difficulty filling it. A grant was secured in 2005 for a door-to-door assessment of community needs, which led to a ten year strategic plan. A terrible ice storm in 2009 convinced residents to start taking action to improve the health, safety and resilience of their community.
We met Vannessa in the summer of 2015, right as BrownfieldListings.com was opening up its beta test and looking for participants. Led by a passionate, capable champion like Vannessa, HCB was an obvious candidate. Without a website of its own, but plenty of project material, HCB was able to publish a Premium Listing, Project Board and Profile for the organization—as well as the republished RFP—in just a few short hours one day on BrownfieldListings.com.
And it worked! Howardville’s presence on BrownfieldListings.com drew attention to Howardville’s RFP from not one, but half a dozen environmental consulting firms with the credentials, experience and creativity to take on HCB’s challenging project. Howardville had its pick, and signed on its first choice at the end of September.
After a brilliant summer building its redevelopment story online and gaining momentum, expressions of support, HCB memberships and even donations have been pouring in. After completion of the redevelopment, the special HCB committee formed to restore the high school will dissolve and become solely dedicated to the school’s new life.
Vannessa will continue her work for the school and the region, talking to communities throughout the Bootheel of Missouri and inspiring them to take the same steps. “Rural communities are always resource deficient, often feeling isolated and left behind in the swift pace of today’s technology,” Vannessa told us. But there are tools that make the hard work of redevelopment easier and “agencies, philanthropists and developers looking to make a difference and searching for worthy projects to invest in… if you can demonstrate a plan to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Brownfield Listings gave Vannessa the online platform to tell HCB’s redevelopment story in detail and get discovered by those who can help. Her advice? "Get listed, it’s really equal opportunity for all communities, large and small."
Congratulations to Howardville, the HCB, and Vannessa on their success and bright future!
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