Nearly every community has land parcels that were once bustling and productive, but are now empty, vacant or under-utilized. Wouldn’t it be nice to turn that property into something better? Perhaps a commercial building. Much-needed housing. Or a neighborhood park.
Now is the time to act. With $1.5 billion of federal funds available for brownfield redevelopment, municipalities and developers have more federal money than ever before to breathe new life into these properties.
Take this survey and our experts will help you better understand your options.
Contaminated or potentially contaminated sites are called brownfields, and no two brownfields are alike. They can range in size and complexity, from a corner gas station to an abandoned factory along a riverfront. A building containing asbestos – which needs to be removed before the building is demolished or renovated – can also be a brownfield concern.
Brownfields can be eyesores. They may pose a danger to health and the environment. And they may lower surrounding property values.
Yet opportunities abound. Brownfields often are located on prime real estate within communities, near city centers where infrastructure is already in place. Redeveloping brownfields can offer communities and developers a chance to bring properties back into productive use, which could help meet the market demand for more commercial, industrial or residential spaces – and create a revenue source by returning sites to the tax rolls. Brownfield properties could also be transformed into community assets, such as parks.
Every site is different, so cleanup methods depend on the site and various factors that are unique to each project. A top goal of brownfield remediation is to make the site safe for people by doing what it takes to limit exposure to harmful materials. The project schedule is a key factor in determining the cleanup method. If the project is on a fast track, your option may be to excavate and refill with clean soil. But if there is time, project design changes could allow for as much in-place contamination management as possible while safely redeveloping the site. Know your cleanup options and choose one that works for your site and schedule.
Redeveloping contaminated sites often brings risk and uncertainty, but grants and loans are available to help turn ideas into reality. Each grant program has its own eligibility criteria and schedule, so it's essential to match a project’s outcomes with grant requirements. Sometimes a loan may be necessary for grant money to take effect. Tax increment financing (TIF), in which a developer doesn’t pay taxes on increased value for a certain period, may be another way to fund brownfield redevelopment.
We understand the challenges brownfield redevelopment sites pose for communities, developers and property owners. The unknowns of whether a site is contaminated and how much it might cost for cleanup creates uncertainty, making it hard to move forward or even know where to start. But accessing state and federal funding and knowing how these financial packages work together can help to begin cleanup and redevelopment.
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Follow these four steps to put you and a potential developer in a better position to start redeveloping a brownfield site:
Communities can benefit from brownfield redevelopment, because brownfield sites often provide an opportunity to achieve goals that are part of community plans. By turning an empty site into a home for a new, thriving business or residential property, you’ll have a healthier, more vibrant community. Brownfield redevelopment can add value to local real estate, create jobs and expand your community’s tax base. The EPA estimates that through fiscal year 2020, each $1 of brownfield funding leveraged over $20 in private investment in brownfield sites, and for every $100,000 of brownfields funding, 10+ jobs were created.
Blighted, under-utilized and vacant property can be redeveloped by understanding the site challenges, matching the site’s environmental needs to funding programs, and looking for innovative ways to finance and attract a broader range of interested developers.
While brownfield redevelopment can be challenging, these challenges can be overcome when you collaborate with stakeholders and access state and federal programs. When a brownfield site is cleaned up, the community benefits. This makes the work very rewarding.
SEH understands the challenges that brownfield redevelopment sites pose for communities, developers and property owners. Our team of planners, funding experts, scientists and engineers are adept at understanding complex redevelopment needs from concept to completion. SEH has successfully completed many brownfield remediation and redevelopment projects. We've worked with community stakeholders to navigate the complex processes associated with environmental due diligence, reuse planning and cleanup, as well as successfully finding and leveraging brownfield grant dollars.
Kristin Prososki is a community development specialist with a passion for brownfield redevelopment. She has experience working on all aspects of brownfield redevelopment, from the early community engagement and planning stages to the full cleanup and redevelopment of the property. Kristin worked with a team and numerous stakeholders to develop a brownfield redevelopment program in Mankato, Minnesota, that helped spur the successful redevelopment of more than a dozen brownfield sites during her time there. Kristin’s funding experience includes successfully accessing brownfield grant resources at the local, state and federal level.