June news from the National Brownfields Coalition

With the Republican Convention just over two months away, where does the party’s presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, stand on brownfield issues? His time as Governor of Massachusetts provides some insights. The following is one of the ten Sustainable Development Principles outlined in Smart Growth Resources for Cities, and Towns written by Massachusetts’ Office of Commonwealth Development in 2006:

“REDEVELOP FIRST. Support the revitalization of community centers and neighborhoods. Encourage reuse and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure rather than the construction of new infrastructure in undeveloped areas. Give preference to redevelopment of brownfields, preservation and reuse of historic structures and rehabilitation of existing housing and schools.”

Announced at an October, 2003 Pittsfield, Massachusetts event, Mitt Romney’s economic development plan included “Doubling the Economic Opportunity Tax Credit from 5 to 10 percent for the redevelopment of a brownfields site.” Romney cited job creation and the potential to entice new companies to existing development as reasons to increase the credit. Read more >>

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Speaking at the Oklahoma Brownfields Conference, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee staff member Matt Hite was quoted as saying, “Behind the scenes, Republican staff are working with Democratic staff to find common ground for a Brownfields Reauthorization bill.” Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Senator Inhofe (R-OK) were both quoted as supporting renewal of the brownfields program at an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing last October. Senator Inhofe is the Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committe, Senator Lautenberg is Chair of the EPW’s Superfund, Toxics, and Environmental Health Subcommittee.

The House of Representatives’ Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies has proposed cutting the EPA Brownfields Site Assessment and Cleanup Program by $35 million, including a $2 million cut to the Assistance to the States program. The National Brownfields Coalition urges communities and businesses to contact members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and let them know how these critically important seed funds are making a difference in your communities. The Coalition’s successful FY 12 campaign is summarized here.

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An architect’s rendering of the now-completed Union Mills project

Baltimore-based Seawall Development has completed two unique teachers’ housing projects, both combining brownfields redevelopment with historic preservation and LEED certification. Seawall’s first project, Miller’s Court, created 40 below market rate loft-style apartments for teachers new to Baltimore (many from Teach for America) and 35,000 square feet of office space for the non-profit organizations that serve Baltimore’s education, health and human service needs.

The recently completed second project, Union Mill, includes 30,000 sq ft of office space for Maryland non-profits, as well as 56 one and two-bedroom apartments. Part of the appeal to non-profits is the availability of joint conference/training rooms, technology centers (phones, faxes, and technology networks), and storage areas. Union Mill advertises $400 – $600 discounts for teachers. Seawall is able to grant those discounts because of the successful deployment of incentives, including New Markets Tax Credits, historic tax credits, and brownfields incentives.

Thibault Manekin, a Partner at Seawall, received a White House honor as a “Champion of Change” for his involvement in these social purpose redevelopment projects.

Click here to read more about the Union Mill project.

Philadelphia’s Green City Clean Waters program is a 25-year, $2 billion plan to manage Philadelphia’s stormwater largely through green infrastructure, rather than simply digging new tunnels and storage tanks to hold runoff. The program has won accolades from the Natural Resources Defense Council; was recently described in glowing terms by National Geographic; and gained a new $200,000 commitment from EPA. NRDC describes it this way: “Philadelphia is the first city in the nation formally committed to using green infrastructure as the primary means to satisfy its combined sewer overflow obligations.” Shawn M. Garvin, EPA Regional Administrator, commented, “We spent a lot of time trying to clean water after it’s polluted,” says Garvin. “Now we’re focusing on how to keep water from coming into contact with pollution in the first place.”

The site of a future Sam’s Club, a subsidiary of Walmart, in St. Petersburg, FL.

The State of Florida offers several incentives to encourage investment in designated brownfield areas, including the Brownfield Redevelopment Bonus Refund (PDF) that offers up to $2,500 in tax credits for each job created on a brownfield. Localities have designated almost 16,000 acres of brownfields areas that are potentially eligible for the incentives, and job and investment numbers are impressively large (25,000 jobs and $4 billion in investment). In Brevard County the brownfields designations have become a centerpiece of the County’s economic development strategy. However, with success comes scrutiny:

Quick Hits:

Conferences and Webcasts:

Newsletter prepared by Evans Paull, Executive Director, National Brownfields Coalition, 202-329-4282 or [email protected].