Ohio selects six communities to participate in the new Brownfields Action Plan Pilot Program

The Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) announced last week six communities that will participate in the state’s innovative Brownfields Action Plan Pilot Program, a new initiative designed to help communities with multiple brownfield sites create area-wide plans to address them.

ODOD launched the program in August of this year and selected the pilot communities after a four-month application and review process. The chosen communities will each receive technical assistance and a $50,000 grant to develop and implement their area-wide plans. The six communities selected include the cities of Fairborn, Newark, Piqua, Ravenna and Xenia, as well as the Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corporation.

ODOD’s initiative is an exciting milestone for brownfields redevelopment and will provide major benefits to Ohio communities. Area-wide planning is a smart growth strategy that looks at vacant and contaminated sites within a region comprehensively – rather than individually – and allows communities to address each site within the context of broader revitalization and economic development goals. This strategy is particularly helpful for communities plagued by sites that are too small or distressed to be viable for redevelopment individually. Addressed collectively, these sites can all become more attractive to potential developers and can ultimately catalyze community-wide revitalization.

Ohio’s Brownfields Action Pilot Program is also a great example of interagency collaboration and alignment between federal and state policy. The initiative’s innovative funding model combines income from Ohio’s Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund (funded by an award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) with federal Community Development Block Grant funds (received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) and is designed to achieve the two programs’ shared goals.

Ohio’s initiative is modeled after the federal Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Pilot Program launched by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2010, but Ohio leaders have tailored the program to meet the specific needs of Ohio communities. The changes were partially based on feedback provided by participants at a statewide meeting convened by Smart Growth America and ODOD in March of 2011.

“We are excited to be a national leader in this concept of area-wide planning for brownfields, and look forward to the increased economic development and job opportunities that result from it,” said William Murdock, Chief of the ODOD’s Community Services Division, in a recent press release (PDF) about the program.

Learn more about the program and the six pilot communities at www.development.ohio.gov.

Photo: “Kenton-Former King-Ohio Forge Facility (CORF & COAF)” by the Ohio Office of Redevelopment, via Flickr.