On the left: A former car dealership in Clearwater, FL became a designated brownfield after the dealership closed. On the right: Today the site is home to the Harbor Oaks shopping center, complete with a new grocery store for the community.
You might be familiar with the concept of brownfields—vacant sites that are known or suspected to be contaminated and which must be remediated before they can be reused. A related, but less well-known concept is healthfields, which turn former brownfields into community health facilities. Healthfields are gaining wide support within regulatory and policy circles, and their popularity opens up new opportunities for real estate developers in these fields.
In many markets today brownfields are unfortunately common enough that land-use-related companies have evolved to specialize in brownfields redevelopment. These companies—including real estate developers, law firms and engineering firms, among others—have learned to navigate the complex regime of rules, procedures and standards that govern the redevelopment of brownfield sites. These companies have also become experts in the web of federal, state and local programs available for brownfields redevelopment, which are often what make brownfield site redevelopment financially feasible.
A former train station and brownfield site will become home to a restaurant, café and a flexible space for events as part of the Depot Park project in Gainesville, FL. Photo via the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency.
Thomas Hawkins, a Commissioner for the City of Gainesville, FL and member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is helping using smart growth strategies to attract economic development while protecting Gainesville’s quality of life.
This month, we’re looking back at some of Smart Growth America’s brightest moments and greatest accomplishments from 2013. Today’s highlight? Our work to get thousands of square miles of brownfields sites cleaned up and redeveloped through a bill introduced in Congress this year.
The Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act of 2013 would help communities across the country clean up brownfields sites and get them back into productive use. Senators Lautenberg (D-NJ), Inhofe (R-OK), Crapo (R-ID) and Udall (D-NM) introduced the bill in March, and since then Senators Hirono, Merkley, Brown, Schatz, Whitehouse, Gillibrand and Levin have all signed on as additional cosponsors.
Esplanade Park in Tacoma, WA, is a former brownfield site that was cleaned up and redeveloped. Newly passed legislation will help more sites achieve this success. Photo by the Washington State Department of Ecology via Flickr.
In June 2013, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill that will make it easier for communities to clean up brownfield sites across the state.
SB 5296 modifies Washington’s Model Toxics Control Act and creates new tools for brownfields cleanup. “There are a large number of toxic waste sites that have been identified in the department of ecology’s priority list,” the bill explained. “Addressing the cleanup of these toxic waste sites will provide needed jobs to citizens of Washington state.”
Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council recently interviewed Madeline Rogero, mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee, to ask her how local governments can catalyze brownfields redevelopment and jumpstart revitalization. In the video above, Rogero discusses how strategic investments by local government have made brownfield sites in Knoxville more attractive to potential developers.
When factories close and their buildings are shuttered, they often leave behind a sinister secret.
Toxic chemicals and pollutants left behind from their industrial past can haunt these places. Until the contaminants can be safely cleaned up or disposed of, no one can use these buildings or the land they sit on.
When the Langdale and Riverdale textile mills closed in the 1990’s, the residents of Valley, Alabama, not only lost a major employer. They lost part of their heritage.
For years the mills have stood as a reminder of what the town lost. Residents, however, saw potential for transforming the historic buildings into a vibrant, walkable neighborhood. The City agreed—but industrial contamination stood in their way.
A historic photo of the McComb City Hospital Building in McComb, MS. Photo via the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
One building in McComb, MS, could provide health care facilities for area residents and revitalize downtown at the same time. A federal brownfields grant is helping the small town achieve both these goals possible.
The McComb City Hospital building, originally constructed in 1911, was the area’s only hospital until the 1960’s and when the Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center was built in 1969, the McComb hospital closed. Through the late 1980′s the building was reused for a variety of purposes, none of which were able to generate long-term and sustainable use of the property.
Community members plan the Village at Market Creek development. Image courtesy of the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.
After extensive planning and dozens of community meetings, the Village at Market Creek in San Diego, CA, is ready to break ground on the next phase of a visionary smart growth project.
For two decades, San Diego has been working to remediate and redevelop the former home of aerospace manufacturer Langley Corp. The company left San Diego in the 1990s, but leaking underground storage tanks and other potentially hazardous materials on the numerous factory sites remained. That meant the 60 acres were not only blighted, but potentially dangerous to redevelop.
The Boomerang Tube Manufacturing Facility in Liberty, TX. Photo courtesy via Brinkmann Constructors.
Liberty, TX is one of the many communities where the federal Brownfields Tax Incentive has brought new jobs to formerly abandoned industrial plants.
The National Tube and Pipe (later Allied Pipe and Tube) opened in Liberty in 1973 and eventually became the largest employer in the town. When the company closed in 1993, it left behind a 492,000 square-foot manufacturing facility contaminated with PCBs, asbestos, a polluted retention pond and petroleum.
In 2009 Boomerang Tube, a manufacturer of pipe and tubes for oil and gas customers, announced its intent renovate and expand the old National Tube and Pipe factory into a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. The project would bring 350 manufacturing jobs back to Liberty in the process. Boomerang Tube had one significant hurdle, though: an estimated $1.2 million in cleanup costs.
The federal Brownfields Tax Incentive program helped make cleanup feasible for Boomerang. The Tax Incentive effectively limited the impact of cleanup costs on the development budget. Tax abatement and other local incentives also factored in, and Access Industries provided financing for the project. All of this helped clear the way for a $200 million investment in the plant and equipment.