By Cassandra Harris
DHEC Director Catherine Heigel and members of our staff recently joined EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, State Representative Harold Mitchell Jr. and various federal, state and local officials in a tour and celebration of the ReGenesis Project. A national model in successful public-private community partnerships, the project is credited with revitalizing Spartanburg, and the surrounding community.
Linking neighborhood health concerns to the pollution in his community, Representative Mitchell, then a resident, founded ReGenesis Project with the mission to represent neighborhood interest in cleaning up contaminated sites and revitalizing the surrounding community. The project leveraged an initial $20,000 grant from the EPA Office of Environmental Justice into more than $270 million in community investment. This April, the ReGenesis Project was recognized by the National Planning Association and received the National Planning Excellence Awards for Advancing Diversity and Social Change.
Drawing on support from residents, local industry and government agencies at the local, state and federal level, the collaborative effort has had a significant impact on the community. Among the notable successes include:
- Working with 124 partners to raise public awareness, and reverse the health impacts that industrial toxic wastes have had on the Spartanburg region;
- Addressing environmental justice issues in the community, resulting in several site cleanups, infrastructure improvements, job training opportunities, quality of life improvements;
- Establishing six (6) ReGenesis Health Care Centers that remain dedicated to reducing and eliminating economic, racial, social, gender, and age barriers to foster wellness in the community;
- Construction of over 500 new affordable/workforce housing units, senior housing, a neighborhood park, and an award-winning community center; and
- Through collaborative efforts, developing reuse plans for formerly contaminated property which includes building a solar farm, an urban golf course and an advance manufacturing learning center on the former Arkwright Dump Site.
During the event, DHEC’s Karen Sprayberry was presented with a House Resolution from Representative Mitchell upon her retirement from the agency. Karen Sprayberry played a major role in assisting with the success of the collaborative, helping work with various stakeholders throughout the community to communicate objectives and find solutions. Signed by members of the SC House of Representatives, the Resolution recognizes Karen for her over 28 years of service and dedication to the agency. Congratulations Karen!