Recent Senate hearing shows strong bipartisan support for EPA Brownfields Program

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Program has a proven track record of creating jobs while cleaning up some of the nation’s most polluted sites. A hearing in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week illustrated that even in a contentious political climate, this track record has helped earn the program strong support from both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.

Touting the success of the decade-old program – which provides funding and training to clean up contaminated sites across the country – Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) highlighted that “these cleanups have created more than 72,000 jobs and attracted more than $17 billion in private investment.” Describing how brownfield cleanup is often the catalyst for new investment in the community, Senator Lautenberg added that “once brownfields are rehabilitated, they often spark neighborhood revitalization, boost property values and make communities more attractive places to live, work and do business.”

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Upcoming Webinar: Brownfields Redevelopment, Community Revitalization, and Regional Planning: Making It Work Together

Join us Tuesday, October 25th at 4:00 PM ET for the next Sustainable Communities Network webinar: “Brownfields Redevelopment, Community Revitalization, and Regional Planning: Making It Work Together.” This event is hosted by Smart Growth America and NALGEP.

We will hear from the Environmental Protection Agency on how the federal government is working to streamline investments in community brownfield redevelopment and regional planning efforts, particularly through the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities. We then will hear the stories and lessons learned from a community in West Virginia already working on brownfield cleanup in conjunction with other economic development projects.

Speakers include Adhir Kackar and Stacy Swartwood from the EPA; and Dawn Seeburger, Environmental Resources & Consulting who is currently working on brownfields issues in Ranson.

What: “Brownfields Redevelopment, Community Revitalization, and Regional Planning: Making It Work Together”
When: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 at 4:00 PM ET
Where: Webinar information will be sent to registrants
RSVP: Click here to register
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After historic flooding, Iowa City uses smart growth strategies in riverfront redevelopment

In 2008, historic flooding across the Midwest caused billions of dollars in damage, and few places were impacted as much as Iowa City. But when the waters finally receded, the city saw an opportunity.

As the city began to recover, Iowa City’s leaders saw a chance to not just rebuild but to revitalize a struggling section of the city along the waterfront – and prepare for future flooding along the Iowa River in the process.

Plans are now in progress to revitalize a 10-square block section of the city called Riverfront Crossings that is, for the time being, home to a wastewater treatment plant, brownfields, and old industrial sites. The new plans, which intend to catalyze private development, include a riverfront park designed to absorb flood waters and a mix of housing options, retail, and office space in a dense, walkable urban environment. The city also hopes to eventually connect the area to the major employer in the city, the University of Iowa, through light rail and commuter rail.

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American Jobs Act would revitalize vacant properties with Project Rebuild

ForeclosureSmart Growth America supports President Obama’s call for federal investments that will create jobs, modernize America’s transportation infrastructure and support the country’s economy as part of the American Jobs Act. In particular, Smart Growth America supports Project Rebuild: Putting People Back to Work Rehabilitating Homes, Businesses and Communities, which has been allocated $15 billion under the proposed bill. From the White House’s description of the program:

The bursting of the housing bubble and the Great Recession that followed has left communities across the country with large numbers of foreclosed homes and businesses, which is weighing down property values, increasing blight and crime, and standing in the way of economic recovery. In these same communities there are also large numbers of people looking for work, especially in the construction industry, where more than 1.9 million jobs have been lost since the beginning of the recession in December 2007. The President is proposing Project Rebuild to help address both of these problems by connecting Americans looking for work in distressed communities with the work needed to repair and repurpose residential and commercial properties. Building on successful models piloted through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), Project Rebuild will invest $15 billion in proven strategies that leverage private capital and expertise to rehabilitate hundreds of thousands of properties in communities across the country.

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Ohio Launches New Brownfield Action Plan Pilot Program

This week, Ohio’s Department of Development (ODOD) announced the Brownfield Action Plan Pilot Program, an innovative new initiative aimed at helping communities impacted by multiple brownfields sites create area-wide plans to address them.

Area-wide planning is a smart growth strategy that looks at vacant and contaminated sites as a connected whole, rather than in isolation. The strategy links brownfields redevelopment goals to housing, transportation, and infrastructure goals to support comprehensive revitalization, and it can be particularly helpful for sites like abandoned gas stations that tend to be clustered in neighborhoods or along corridors. Many of these sites are too small or too distressed to be redeveloped individually, but by addressing several brownfields at once area-wide planning can make such properties more attractive to developers.

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EPA announces $76 million in grants to assess and clean up brownfields

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a new series of investments to assess and clean up abandoned industrial and commercial properties across the country. Brownfield grants can serve as vital tools for struggling communities looking to revitalize by providing some of the resources necessary to redevelop contaminated properties, create jobs, and spur local economic growth. This round of EPA grants will include more than $76 million in funds distributed to a number of innovative efforts in communities in 40 states.

The Tamiami Trail Initiative in western Florida is one of these efforts. The Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway (US Highway 41) runs through Sarasota and Manatee counties and is plagued by more than 500 petroleum brownfields and a number of other contaminated properties. The revitalization initiative, which started in 2009, has brought together a diverse group of stakeholders – including government, nonprofits, business groups, environmental consultants, property owners, and community members – to inventory and cleanup petroleum sites along the corridor and help spur economic development opportunities in the process.

EPA has awarded the Sarasota/Manatee County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) $1,000,000 to help continue the cleanup and revitalization work already underway along the route.

The Tamiami Trail Initiative is part of a growing trend among communities across the country using a corridor-wide approach to redevelop abandoned and vacant properties contaminated by petroleum and other hazardous chemicals. By planning to remediate a cluster of sites along a given transportation corridor – rather than one at a time – communities like those along the Tamiami Trail are able to create an economy of scale that helps leverage resources and overcome many of the barriers associated with smaller scale revitalization efforts.

For more information about the Tamiami Trail or brownfield grants and revitalization projects, visit EPA.gov.

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Ohio Looks to Pilot Area-Wide Brownfield Program

Last month, the State of Ohio took some important steps to support localities looking for better ways to redevelop abandoned gas stations and other contaminated land in their communities. Ohio officials met with community-based organizations from across the state to discuss starting a pilot state area-wide planning program that could kickoff as early as this summer.

Area-wide planning is a smart growth strategy that helps communities understand the combined impact of multiple brownfield sites. By looking at vacant and contaminates sites as a connected whole, rather than in isolation, communities can better plan for housing, transportation and infrastructure projects that support the entire community. An area-wide approach can help foster a new vision for communities impacted by brownfields and support the revitalization of all of the properties there. This is particularly useful for some sites, like abandoned gas stations, which may be more difficult to redevelop individually because of their smaller size.

Recognizing the benefits of this process, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched an Area-Wide Planning Pilot Program last year, which will provide the 23 communities selected for assistance with financial and technical support to implement area-wide planning strategies to revitalize the empty gas stations, closed landfills and abandoned factories inhibiting investment in their neighborhoods.

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National Brownfields 2011 Conference (April 3-5)

Brownfields 2011: Sustainable Communities Start Here:

The National Brownfields Conference is the largest, most comprehensive conference in the nation focused on environmental revitalization and economic redevelopment. Whether you’re a newcomer to the world of economic and environmental redevelopment, or a seasoned professional looking to make new connections and increase your business, Brownfields 2011 offers something for you.

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Webinar: The Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Pilot: Early Implementation and Future Directions (Feb. 17)

The National Association of Local Government Environmental Professionals (NALGEP) is hosting a webinar on February 17, 2011 from 2:00-3:30pm addressing the recent EPA Brownfield Area-Wide Planning Pilot program. From NALGEP: In 2010, EPA’s Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization established the Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Pilot Program (AWP) and selected 23 pilot communities from across the … Continued

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Triggering Economic Growth in Denver, CO

The Denver Skyline overlooking I-25, originally uploaded by Flickr user mandymooo.

The South Platte River has been an integral part of Denver, Colorado’s history, spanning 14 neighborhoods across the city and bordered by a railroad track dating back to the mid-1800s. Unfortunately, the river has also endured pollution from a variety of sources over the life of the city: early railroad cars dumped their waste directly into the river, gravel quarries along its banks were later converted to landfills that leached pollution into the water, and a number of abandoned gas stations, smelters, and coal burning plants line the river as well.

In October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded the City and County of Denver an Area-Wide Planning Pilot Grant to clean up the South Platte River and the properties along its banks. The area also received a Community Challenge/TIGER II Grant from HUD and DOT to create a new transit station nearby.

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