Lovelock, Nevada’s Brownfields Redevelopment Journey – NADO

Setting the Stage for Redevelopment 

Located on Interstate 80 about 75 miles northeast of Reno, Nevada, the small city of Lovelock is home to just under 2,000 residents and as the only incorporated municipality in Pershing County serves as its county seat. The entire city fits into an irregular block less than two miles long and a mile wide and hosts Pershing County schools, a general hospital, a humane society, a marijuana dispensary, a few casinos, a Safeway grocery store, and a number of other assorted small businesses and associations to sustain the town and the surrounding community. Though named after George Lovelock who ran a storefront in the 1800s, it is perhaps best known for leveraging its name into an annual tradition in which couples travel to the community to symbolize the resilience of their relationships by securing a padlock to a fence in the town’s central square. Lovelock’s brownfields journey is itself a case study in resilience – one in which the community has had to creatively adapt to challenges and setbacks as it establishes a vision for a vibrant future.

Pershing County is spread out over 6,000 square miles and is an important agricultural producer for the region, growing alfalfa and other hays for livestock. It is home to the nation’s largest operational silver mine and a large Atlantic salmon farm is scheduled for construction in 2021. Despite the fact that as many as one-third of the properties in Lovelock are vacant or rundown, Pershing County did not have any formal brownfields projects prior to 2017. The Pershing County Economic Development Authority (PCEDA) developed a Strategic and Revitalization Plan that included considerations for the abandoned or underutilized lands as part of a strategy for economic resilience. PCEDA worked closely with the Western Nevada Development District (WNDD), the region’s economic development district that serves seven counties and five cities, to apply for assessment funding from EPA’s Brownfields Program. Heidi Lusby-Angvick, executive director of PCEDA, and Sheryl Gonzales, executive director of WNDD, wrote the application in late 2017 which was approved within a few months. WNDD ultimately received two Brownfields Communitywide Site Assessment Coalition Grants totaling $600,000. The funds were intended to inventory all of Lovelock’s brownfield properties, select the highest priority redevelopment sites, and then assess those properties through Phase I, Phase II, as well as Clean Up and Reuse Planning.

In November 2019, while WNDD and PCEDA were still in the planning stage, an arson fire in downtown Lovelock severely damaged a pub, a bookstore, and a former law office. Four lots in total, each with different owners, were affected. PCEDA reached out to Lisa Hanusiak, EPA’s Region 9 Brownfield Project Manager, to begin prioritizing funds for assessment of the burned properties. There were immediate challenges, including pending insurance documents, an arson investigation, and property owners unconvinced at the time about the brownfields process. Additionally, that spring the COVID-19 pandemic drastically slowed the planning process for the overall brownfields project. PCEDA was finalizing preparations for a public engagement charrette in March 2020 when the governor of Nevada ordered the state to shut down for quarantine. In-person meetings were canceled and the traditional public engagement process was no longer a possibility. However, with technical assistance from WNDD, PCEDA was able to pivot to a virtual public engagement process, despite limited funding, time, and resources.

A DIY Virtual Engagement Process

To gather input from the community during the pandemic, a YouTube video tour was created featuring five brownfields sites in Lovelock.  Participants responded to questions about each of the sites via an Incognito form embedded next to the video.

PCEDA and WNDD designed a multi-staged virtual engagement process that included a homemade 5-minute video tour of the proposed sites for assessment and a simple, but very effective website to receive comments and questions about the brownfields project.  The video was recorded by Don Vetter, WNDD’s Economic Recovery Coordinator, and featured Heidi at the five proposed brownfields sites in downtown Lovelock.  Says Don, “With the video, we tried to create a ‘docent tour” where there was the YouTube video on one side of the screen and on the other a Cognito Form with questions that were open-ended where people could fill in the blanks.”  Heidi recalls that “the video wasn’t very polished or pristine, but people liked that it was real and authentic, that it was part of their community.” The video was posted on the website where the public was asked to respond to four questions: What do you value in the downtown core? What historical elements should be retained? What elements are needed in the downtown core to become a business and visitors’ destination?  What are the building blocks for a downtown vision? After a great deal of grassroots advertising through social media, local newspaper ads, phone calls, and emails, the initial Virtual Tour received about double the usual engagement from the Lovelock public, with plenty of comments about residents’ priorities for the redevelopment of the town.

A Vision for the Future 

After the arson investigation concluded, negotiations could begin with the owners of the burned properties to collaborate on the brownfields process. Meanwhile, Phase 1 and 2 assessments began on the various prioritized brownfield sites around Lovelock; specifically, there were two properties that were of interest to potential commercial buyers, but only if the buildings were determined to be free of contaminants. Also, because the original grants did not include funding for cleanup, PCEDA applied for another grant from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection to begin preparing the burned properties for reuse. After reviewing the input from the Virtual Tour, the planning team organized two vision setting workshops in November and December 2020, both via public Zoom meetings. The first Visioning Workshop was meant to synthesize the ideas suggested from the Virtual Tour in order to design a unified vision for the development of the community, including a series of eight broader themes and five “Bold Steps” that could be taken towards realizing the objectives of those themes. The second visioning meeting built on the first, wherein the facilitators tasked the public participants with identifying strategic priorities and then building ownership and commitment to the vision.

Virtual public engagement activities led to community members identifying priorities and setting a bold vision for Lovelock.  Click the image to see a larger version.

Participants responded to a number of questions about the future of Lovelock, including “What is your vision for a vibrant, sustainable, resilient downtown core in Lovelock?” They also contributed priorities and ideas for the eight themes identified in the first workshop.  For example, one of the identified themes for the vision of downtown Lovelock was having “Many things to do for families, locals, and travelers.” Some of the priorities for that theme submitted by workshop participants included a public swimming pool, a skate park, a public library and senior center, a spiritual reading center, a year-round splash pad, an annual car show, and street festivals. In a brief survey as to what the workshop participants wanted to see built in five years, 73% of them indicated that they wanted to see no run-down or vacant buildings in downtown Lovelock.  PCEDA also worked with owners of the burned properties on safe access and cleanup timetables through the spring of 2021 and cleanup is expected to begin in the summer of 2021.

The vision setting approach has helped situate the Lovelock brownfields process into the larger Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) prepared by the Western Nevada Development District. WNDD is also in the process of creating a regional Resiliency Plan with a council of thirteen leaders from across western Nevada. One of the most important topics that the council is considering for the resiliency of the region is technology and connectivity, which is related to many of the themes and priorities that residents of Lovelock identified for the future of their town. Specifically, workshop participants said they wanted to preserve the historic values of their downtown, while upgrading their community with modern amenities such as electric vehicle charging stations and high-speed mobile broadband. Much of the public input included commentary on wanting Lovelock to “be connected” to the rest of Nevada and to the world as a whole.

“Be Creative and Don’t Be Scared”

The working relationship between PCEDA and WNDD has been extremely productive. The two organizations’ staff often collaborate on projects and activities, such as grant applications, public engagement, research, and publications.  They also worked together to layer many grants from different funders in order to position the community for redevelopment.  For the Lovelock brownfields project, the two organizations shared lessons learned for adapting to new technologies and using what resources were available in lieu of what would be ideal. From the beginning, the process in Lovelock was faced with obstacles, including budget constraints and COVID-related logistical challenges, but both teams used what resources they had available in creative ways to accomplish what they needed to do.  Says Don Vetter of WNDD, “The current new normal gives us new tools and new ways to reach people that either wouldn’t bother or wouldn’t have the time to do this.  We were able to do the downtown video as a two person show and get some substantive feedback and traction.”  Heidi encourages other small communities to follow their example: “Be creative and don’t be scared.  No budget? Do it anyway, get your phone camera and do a video and get it done.”

Key Takeaways from the Lovelock/Pershing Brownfields Initiative:

    • Innovative Problem-Solving – When obstacles and unexpected roadblocks appear during your planning process, your team must find creative ways to get around them and make progress. This also requires perseverance and the motivation to accomplish project goals despite challenges and frustrations.  In Lovelock, the team creatively adapted to a number of challenges, including the COVID pandemic, funding obstacles, frustrated property owners, and technology hurdles.
    • Layering Grants from Different Funders – Projects for the redevelopment of vacant or run-down properties can be long, complex, and expensive. It is a common practice to seek funding from many different sources, each of which will support one or two stages of the redevelopment process. PCEDA received grants from many sources, including the federal EPA Brownfields program and the Nevada DEP, to fund the different stages of Lovelock’s redevelopment plan.
    • Flexible Public Engagement – Drawing input from your community stakeholders is a must, but it can be challenging to schedule and plan an engagement process in which the public will actually participate. Meeting your stakeholders where and when they are available is a key practice to building a proper engagement model. In Lovelock, the team had to adapt to the logistical challenges of COVID by pivoting to a virtual public engagement process, rather than meeting stakeholders in person.

Researched and written by Austin Barrington, NADO Research Foundation Graduate Fellow, with support from Associate Director Brett Schwartz

Heidi Lusby-Angvick and Don Vetter presented on the Lovelock Brownfields Virtual Visioning Tour as part of NADO’s Annual Training Conference in October 2020.  Press play on the video above to hear their remarks.

This case study was written with the financial support from the Center for Creative Land Recycling (CCLR) through a contract with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of CCLR or EPA.


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Regional Development Researcher Andrew Coker joined the NADO team in March of 2023 after spending two and a half years as the Regional Economic Resiliency Coordinator at West Central Arkansas Planning and Development District. Andrew holds a bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

At NADO, Andrew conducts research on the newest economic and community development best practices from Economic Development Districts across the country. He helps produce easily digestible information on complex regional issues through case studies, tip sheets, and research reports. Andrew also hosts training and professional development opportunities including conference sessions and virtual webinars for member regional development organizations.

Andrew is one of our Missouri-based team members and enjoys reading and training for his next triathlon.

Jack Morgan came to the NADO team in 2022 after seven years with the National Association of Counties (NACo) as a Program and Senior Program Manager. Prior to NACo, Jack was a Policy Analyst for Friends of Southwest Virginia. Jack holds a bachelor’s in geography from Emory & Henry College and a master’s in geography from Appalachian State University.

As a NADO Senior Program Manager, Jack leads capacity-building and peer-learning work supporting energy communities in economic transition, regional resilience, and recreation economies. He also helps with the EDA-Austin training program Emerging Leaders.

Jack is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and is a member of the American Planning Association (APA) in the Regional & Intergovernmental Planning division. He also serves on the Emory & Henry College Alumni Board.

Taking road trips, reading non-fiction, and indulging in top-notch barbecue and coffee round out Jack’s days. He loves maps, mountains, and of course, all things sports.

Karron Grant joined the NADO team in 2023 as Administrative Specialist and is the first face (or voice) you’ll see or hear when reaching out to NADO. As Administrative Specialist, Karron manages our database and coordinates NADO event operations. He ensures members’ needs are met, contact information stays current, and NADO’s office is running efficiently.

Karron came to NADO after four years in the classroom teaching at The New Century School and Old Mill Middle North where he received the Patriot of the Year award. He attended Towson University and the University of Maryland Global Campus and holds a bachelor’s in international studies and humanities.

Visiting art galleries and museums, playing basketball and bowling, and taking in movies and music are some of Karron’s interests and hobbies.

Deputy Executive Director Laurie Thompson has been with NADO for 25 years. Laurie helps keep the NADO and NADO Research Foundation wheels turning through management of the daily operations of the Research Foundation, securing financial resources and overseeing grants management, and helping execute NADO’s Annual Training Conference each year.

Laurie holds a bachelor’s in public affairs and government from Mount Vernon College and a master’s in health services administration from The George Washington University. Prior to NADO, Laurie spent time as a Field Specialist and an Eagle Staff Fund Director at First Nations Development Institute.

When she’s taking a rare reprieve from her NADO work, Laurie enjoys traveling domestically and internationally to visit friends and family.

Jamie McCormick joined the NADO team as a Policy Fellow first in 2019, then moved into her current role as Legislative Associate in 2021. As Legislative Associate, Jamie keeps NADO members apprised of any policy and regulatory issues and communicates NADO’s policy priorities to federal stakeholders and partner organizations. She is also the first stop for members with inquiries on policy issues. The planning and execution of NADO & DDAA’s annual Washington Conference is also managed by Jamie.

Jamie holds a dual bachelor’s in political science and international relations from The State University of New York College at Geneseo and a master’s in international development studies from The George Washington University. In addition to her roles at NADO, Jamie also worked as a Legislative Assistant for the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association.

Outside of her NADO work, Jamie is an active volunteer with the VOLO Kids Foundation and a fundraiser for YMCA youth programs. She is also NADO’s resident baker regularly providing treats for those in NADO’s D.C. office. Traveling, taking her pup on walks, and hiking in the northeast keep Jamie busy. 

Brett Schwartz began at NADO in 2012 as a Research Fellow after earning his J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law. The following year, he was promoted to Program Manager and has now been leading as an Associate Director since 2018. Brett is responsible for managing NADO’s Economic Development District Community of Practice (EDD CoP), as well as researching and monitoring the latest trends in regional economic development and resilience, including best practices for the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). With more than a decade of experience on the NADO team, Brett is a dynamic relationship builder helping connect and build capacity among the national network of regional development organizations.

Brett also holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s from Trinity College Dublin, as well as a certificate in mediation training. He’s a member of Catalyst Grantmakers of San Diego and Imperial Counties and was a participant in the 2021-22 Field Trips to the Future Cohort.

Brett is one of NADO’s West Coast team members residing in San Diego, CA where he enjoys spending time outdoors, attending concerts and festivals, and soaking up life as a parent of two young children.  

Communications Manager Katie Allison joined the team in 2023 to lead the strategic communication efforts of NADO. Katie creates and develops print and online materials, communicates NADO’s updates to members via weekly emails, and maintains content for and NADO’s social media channels. She also works with different departments to generate new ideas and strategies to effectively describe and promote the important work NADO is doing for EDDs and RDOs across the country.

An experienced nonprofit communications professional, Katie has worked for organizations in western North Carolina for nearly a decade. She holds a bachelor’s in communications from Wingate University where she was a four-year student athlete. Katie has also completed Vision Henderson County, a comprehensive leadership development program that promotes informed and committed civic volunteerism.

Katie stays busy trying to keep up with her two young sons whom she enjoys exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains with. Traveling to new and favorite places and cheering on the Atlanta Braves are some of her family’s favorite pastimes.

Senior Program Manager Ciara Ristig has been a member of the NADO team since 2021, and helps with NADO’s EDD Community of Practice, EDD staff capacity building and other grants on a range of subjects, including equity and solar energy. Before NADO, Ciara worked as a Planner for the County of Santa Barbara and an Assistant Project Manager for REM Consult. Ciara holds a bachelor’s in urban studies and French from Bryn Mawr and a master’s in urban studies from Ecole d’Urbanisme de Paris.

When she’s not traveling, you can find her outrigger paddling and serving on the board of the Blue Sky Center in New Cuyama, CA, near her home base of Santa Barbara.

Carrie Kissel has been a member of the NADO team since 2005 when she began as a Research Fellow. She later moved into the roles of Program Manager in 2006, and then Associate Director in 2011. Carrie holds a bachelor’s in anthropology from Ball State University and a master’s in public anthropology from American University. As Associate Director, Carrie oversees NADO’s work in rural transportation and rural wealth creation. She provides technical assistance and support to rural regions on transportation and economic development issues and develops training and peer exchange events on transportation issues and rural wealth creation as an economic development strategy.

Carrie is a member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and secretary of TRB’s Rural Transportation Issues Coordinating Council. She is also a member of the American Anthropological Association and the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology.

Reading, gardening, hiking, and kayaking are a few of Carrie’s hobbies, and she organizes and facilitates a DEI/social justice-focused book club in her community.

Melissa Levy has worked at NADO as a Regional Development Researcher since February 2023 and is the Principal Consultant at her own firm specializing in wealth-based economic development consulting. With a career spanning nearly 30 years, Melissa brings a breadth of knowledge to her role as a Regional Development Researcher. Melissa provides in-depth research, coaching, and training on regional economic resilience, rural wealth creation strategies, and economic development.

Melissa is a North American Food Systems Network trained AgriCluster Resilience and Expansion (ACRE) facilitator and a WealthWorks coach, facilitator, and trainer. In addition to her professional work, Melissa serves on the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Council, on the board of the Hinesburg Community Resource Center, and on the Hinesburg Economic Development Committee.

A true outdoorswoman, Melissa enjoys cross country and downhill skiing, paddleboarding, hiking, biking, and kayaking, as well as yoga, and teaching Tai Chi.

Program Manager Krishna Kunapareddy began her role with NADO in February of 2023 after 14 years of service at Boonslick Regional Planning Commission in Missouri. Krishna manages NADO Research Foundation’s Planning and Environmental Linkages and Center for Environmental Excellence projects. In addition to researching and writing, Krishna also conducts virtual workshops on innovative tools and techniques related to transportation planning.

She holds an undergraduate degree from Andhra University and a master’s from JNT University in India, as well as a master’s in city and regional planning from the University of Texas at Arlington. Krishna is also a certified Smart Cities Academy Practitioner and holds the Location Advantage certificate from geographic information system software company ESRI.

In her spare time, Krishna volunteers with Mentors4College helping high schoolers better plan for their post-high school paths. She is also a dedicated advocate for documented H4 Dreamers.

Krystal DeLeon joined the NADO team in October of 2020 as Database & Grants Manger, but in January of 2022 transitioned to her current role as Operations Manager. Krystal keeps NADO running through behind the scenes work of invoicing, solving any database issues that may arise, producing membership reports, and much more. Her organizational skills and thorough knowledge help the NADO team operate more efficiently across all departments.

Prior to NADO, Krystal was the Conference Services Coordinator for State Services Organization. She is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), a licensed realtor, and holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Liberty University. When she’s not keeping NADO’s operations in order, Krystal enjoys running and rock climbing, and adventuring with her husband and son.

Senior Program Manager Bret Allphin joined NADO in April of 2022 bringing with him a wealth of knowledge after a 20-year career with Buckeye Hills Regional Council in Marietta, Ohio. In addition to his bachelor’s in political science and master’s in public affairs, Bret is licensed Geographical Information Systems Professional (GISP). He is NADO’s go-to team member for all things mapping while also supporting members with transportation and economic development technical assistance services.

An avid sports aficionado and former collegiate athlete, Bret enjoys cheering on his Cincinnati Reds, hitting the trails on his mountain bike, and improving his golf game whenever possible. Bret is an involved community member in Marietta dedicating much of his spare time to serving on local nonprofit boards.

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Joe McKinney serves as Executive Director of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). Headquartered in Washington DC, NADO provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s 500+ regional planning and development organizations.

Joe has thirty-one years of experience having served in city, county, regional, national association, and government management since 1991. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a candidate for a master’s degree in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.

McKinney has provided congressional testimony on numerous occasions regarding the importance of regional development organizations in helping shape the nation’s economic growth. He is nationally recognized for promoting innovative solutions in areas such as planning and economic development, workforce development, transportation and transit, and aging services.

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