March news from the National Brownfields Coalition

New guide for local leaders helps overcome barriers to address nation’s blighted properties

A new guide for town, city and county leaders outlines how to build the financial and political support needed to reclaim and redevelop the thousands of abandoned gas stations, auto body shops, and industrial facilities nationwide.

From Vacancy to Vibrancy focuses on underground storage tank (UST) sites – properties with buried or partially buried tanks that have been used to store petroleum or other hazardous substances. When gas stations, auto body shops, industrial facilities or other types of development close down, these tanks are often left behind. As they age, the tanks are prone to leakage and can contaminate both soil and groundwater, posing a serious environmental threat. The new guide takes aim at one of the primary reasons these types of properties remain vacant for so long: many officials just don’t know what to do with them.

The new resource provides an overview of the tools and strategies available to leaders who want to transform UST sites into economic and community assets.

The guide also includes information about state and federal brownfield program requirements, brownfield redevelopment financing strategies, and multi-site planning techniques. An annotated list of resources is included at the end for further exploration.

Click here to read more and download the full report >>

Coalition launches fund-raising appeal

The National Brownfields Coalition is starting a fund-raising drive with an objective of raising $20,000 to support brownfields congressional advocacy. The Coalition works with Congress to promote brownfields redevelopment as a core strategy for achieving job expansion, community revitalization, and sustainable growth objectives. Smart Growth America, the Coalition’s new host, is offering a challenge grant of $3,000 linked to Coalition fund-raising of $12,000; so every dollar raised is, in effect, $1.25.

Some of the Coalition’s accomplishments include:

Businesses and individuals are encouraged to join the Brownfields Leadership Circle. Join today using our online application. Membership payments are 100% tax deductible.

Welcome new Leadership Circle members

The National Brownfields Coalition is proud to introduce Green Street Environmental and SCS Engineers as the newest members of our Leadership Circle. Welcome!

West Virginia: Proposed “Land Stewardship Corporation” would combine institutional controls and economic development

In February, the West Virginia state Senate passed SB 552 to create a statewide Land Stewardship Corporation to manage brownfields cleanup information and certify sites as “ready for construction.” The new quasi-public entity would be a repository for institutional controls data, but is also envisioned to play a role in economic development by virtue of authority to: create a land bank; accept donations of land; certify land as ready for construction; assist local governments with assembling and clearing title, and provide comprehensive site information to promote redevelopment. Read more >>

Is urbanism slowing the rise of car travel?

An article in the Atlantic Cities last week refers to data released by the State Smart Transportation Initiate (SSTI) indicating that per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT) declined by nearly 3 percent over a 10-year period. SSTI suggests that urban densities – on the rise since 1990 – are likely responsible for the decline in VMTs. Urban density variations were found to be more strongly correlated with VMT reduction than gas prices.

Brownfields and the President’s budget

The President’s budget for fiscal year 2013, released in February, requests $167 million for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields program – a $1.1 million (or 0.7%) cut relative to 2012. The Administration continues “zeroing” the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program, although it also asks for an increase in HUD 108 loan authority to $500 million. The Administration wants to make HUD 108 self-sustaining through increased fees, thereby eliminating the credit subsidy. The HUD Sustainable Communities Program, which Congress did not fund last year, is back in the President’s budget at $100 million.

Click here for more information about year-over-year funding for federal brownfields programs >>

Boston: Making creative use of HUD 108, creating loan pool for job creation

Most cities think about HUD 108 as a project-specific gap financing mechanism, but Boston has gone a different direction: job creation through a unique loan pool called “Boston Invests in Growth.” The $69 million program, linked to job creation for low-and moderate income persons, assists projects where the primary lender is lined up but the lack of mezzanine financing has prevented the project from moving forward. At least one brownfield project, the Shops at Riverwood, was funded through the program.

Brooklyn: Whole Foods overcomes opposition to redevelopment of brownfields site

“A Whole Foods market was given the final go-ahead on February 28 to build a store on a 4.2-acre former industrial site — but first had to run the gauntlet of public opposition.” The article in Better! Cities & Towns indicates several controversies (all attributable to the need for a zoning change), and an interesting reversal of the usual community concerns related to redevelopment proposals. The opposition contended there was too much parking and that the redevelopment was insufficiently dense.

Quick hits:

Conferences and webcasts: