|Top: A former industrial site in Columbus, OH, undergoes cleanup and remediation.
Bottom: The site is now home to Harrison Park housing complex and a town rec center. Image courtesy of Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund.
Cleaning up and redeveloping abandoned, contaminated brownfield sites can create jobs, increase tax revenue, renew neighborhoods and is a great investment of public funds. But local officials make those investments go even farther by supporting projects that not only improve an area and attract private investment but catalyze redevelopment of surrounding properties, too.
That’s the concept behind area-wide planning, the idea that brownfields redevelopment works best when it connects individual site redevelopment with a larger vision for community revitalization. By redeveloping multiple sites in the same area through a single plan, the reinvestment in the neighborhood can be leveraged by a number of projects, not just one,and make public dollars go even further.
This strategy has helped a handful of areas across the country achieve notable successes, but federal and state funding restrictions have made addressing multiple sites at the same time notoriously difficult. In the past, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restricted its brownfields cleanup grants to work on individual sites, requiring separate applications for multiple sites. Projects that included “petroleum brownfields” like gas stations required application to a separate pool of funding with a separate set of rules. All of these stood in the way of coordinated area planning, and efficient redevelopment of the properties.