Where Are the Brownfields?
Sep 4, 2009

Where Are the Brownfields?

You can find a list of available brownfield sites for redevelopment, but it’s actually much more complicated and nuanced than it appears. The greatest challenge in finding suitable sites is that there aren’t standard criteria for determining whether or not a given property is a “brownfield.” This is because it is not simply the contamination itself that makes a property a brownfield, but rather the effect this contamination has on the ability of a property to realize its highest and best use.

Many owners of potentially contaminated properties would rather stay off of any “brownfield list” for fear of the stigma, decreased property value, and potential liabilities that may result from the discovery of any contamination. For a more complete discussion of the challenges of brownfields inventorying – including how one city has successfully met these challenges in their community revitalization efforts – click to download our white paper, “How Many Brownfields Does California Have?”

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Redevelopment Opportunities in Your City

Contacting the economic, redevelopment or housing staff of cities is your best chance to find the brownfield redevelopment opportunities in your city. But when you contact a city, don’t ask for a “brownfield” site. Just ask if they have a list of sites identified for redevelopment. If the site has not already been assessed or redeveloped, it may be because it is a brownfield. Few cities publish an inventory of brownfield sites due to liability reasons. Local environmental or health departments are not tuned into brownfields redevelopment as they deal with enforcement or cleanup activity, rather than redevelopment activity.

You can also conduct research by reviewing online documents at each cities’ redevelopment agency or housing department. Some cities will list preferred areas or target sites – these are not necessarily brownfields, however. Many cities have also received grants from the EPA to identify sites for assessment and redevelopment – this EPA website – lists all the cities and counties that have received EPA assessment, cleanup, and revolving loan fund grants.

Finding Industrial Brownfield Sites
You are probably looking for a brownfield site because of potential funding available from the EPA and state agencies. If this is the case, the city may provide some information that would be useful in evaluating the eligibility of the site for financial incentives. You may also have to conduct additional research to determine if the site qualifies as a brownfield under the grantors’ guidelines.

Cities have varying policies and practices in regard to how they promote development sites. Some cities – through their planning, economic development, housing, or redevelopment departments – create property inventories or designate opportunity sites/areas; some of which have previously been used, or may be vacant or underutilized. Some of these sites may be greenfield sites. You may have to conduct a site visit and/or investigate the previous use of the site using commonly available tools and sources of information. You may also retain a qualified environmental professional to conduct this preliminary analysis on your behalf.

Based on this initial research, you will have a better understanding of how a site might qualify for financial incentives from the city, state or EPA. Still have questions? We want to help! Visit our contact page and drop us a line.

rachel ross
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Rachel Ross
Communications Manager
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