What’s the Most Important Benefit of a Brownfields Redevelopment Project?
As with most questions, it depends on whom you ask. A real estate developer is likely to say the reduced purchase price of a brownfields property can lead to increased profits. Community members may point to increased jobs and reduced environmental health and safety risks that result once the property is properly cleaned up and returned to productive use. A local government official probably sees economic revitalization and increased tax revenue as the primary benefits. All valid and important benefits to be sure, but for me it’s the reduction in urban sprawl and preservation of greenspace, mainly because the area where I grew up – the western suburbs of Allentown, Pennsylvania – epitomizes urban sprawl. What were agricultural lands and woodlots along the I-78 corridor back in the 1970s and 80s are now largely industrial parks, warehouses, and housing subdivisions. The price of progress some may argue. Partially true, I suppose, but maybe some of those greenspaces could have been spared had developers considered reusing brownfields properties at the time.
In case you aren’t familiar, the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) defines Brownfields as real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Reinvesting in and cleaning up these properties protects the environment, reduces blight, and takes development pressures off greenspaces and working lands. In 2002, President Bush signed the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act, also known as “the Brownfields Law” right here in Pennsylvania, a stone’s throw from my office. The Brownfields Law amended the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) by providing funds to assess and cleanup brownfields; clarified CERCLA liability protections; and provided funds to enhance state and tribal response programs.
Successful brownfields redevelopment projects are usually undertaken as partnerships between a municipality, the community, private-sector stakeholders (e.g., developer), and government agencies. Since the signing of the Brownfields Law in 2002, thousands of former industrial and commercial sites have been successfully redeveloped across the country and returned to productive use. The National Brownfields Association estimates that there may be as many as 425,000 brownfields sites throughout the US, accounting for a possible 5 million acres of abandoned industrial land. Assessment and cleanup of these sites results in many benefits:
- economic revitalization
- reduced blight and crime
- increased property values
- job creation
- reduction in environmental and safety risks
- reduction in urban sprawl
- greenspace preservation
- infrastructure improvement
Environmental Standards offers a variety of brownfield redevelopment services, including:
- Phase I and Phase II environmental site assessments
- remediation planning and implementation
- community outreach and engagement
- grant application preparation
- program management
Our brownfield redevelopment professionals function seamlessly within the multi-disciplinary teams often needed to complete property redevelopment projects. We have successfully guided clients through many redevelopment projects by applying science and current technology to develop efficient, cost-effective redevelopment strategies that make the best use of the flexibility allowed in various brownfield programs.