Cities and towns along the Mississippi River will be able to tap into a new funding source for riverfront development projects with the announcement Wednesday of the creation of the Mississippi River Sustainable Development Fund.
Riverfront municipalities will be able to apply for grants through the fund to cover start-up costs for — or to put finishing touches on — a wide variety of riverfront projects.
“This fund is designed to provide invaluable seed money for cities’ sustainability waterfront development efforts,” Dubuque, Iowa, Mayor Roy Buol said. “From Minnesota to Louisiana, there are cities that have developed remarkable plans for riverfront parks, ecosystem restoration and establishment of green tourism destinations, repair of critical water infrastructure or expansion of economic engines such as ports and terminals.”
The fund was announced during the third annual meeting of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative.
The initiative, which includes mayors of 65 cities and towns along the river including New Orleans, is meeting in the Crescent City this week.
Like dozens of other cities, New Orleans is exploring ways to revitalize its riverfront, such as the recent opening of Crescent Park in Marigny and Bywater and proposals for new development near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
The criteria by which the projects will be evaluated and the amount of money each individual project could receive have not yet been determined, said Buol, who serves as co-chairman of the initiative.
He said the fund is ultimately intended to boost economic development in cities and towns along the Mississippi River.
“Every dollar invested in water infrastructure yields $2 in economic development,” Buol said.
“Infrastructure, green or gray, is the physical platform of our economy, and mayors want to do what they can to sustain that platform.”
The fund has received an initial contribution of $15,000 from the New Jersey-based public utility American Water Works Co. More money could come from both private and public donors.
As part of Wednesday’s announcement, the World Trade Center Mississippi River Alliance said it would partner with foundations to seek out investment for sustainable waterfront development projects.
The alliance, which includes the local World Trade Center organization and six others along the Mississippi River, signed a cooperative endeavor agreement to that effect with the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative and the Mississippi River Partnership of Community Foundations, which represents 18 community foundations.