Ohio Advances Sustainable Brownfields Renewal

Columbus brownfields
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.

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Lowell’s Area-Wide Plan Targets Historic Tanner Street Corridor

Lowell, Mass., street, originally uploaded by The Library of Congress.

Lowell, Massachusetts has an important national legacy: the city was the United States’ largest textile producer in the 1800s, the birthplace of Jack Kerouac, and home to the invention of Moxie, one of the earliest (and most delicious) soft drinks mass produced in the country.

Lowell’s Tanner Street Corridor, the focus of the Area-Wide Planning Pilot Grant the city received from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month, still reflects that legacy. The corridor is one of the few remaining active industrial areas in the city, with an emphasis on automobile and metal recycling.

Unfortunately, with the decline of manufacturing nationally, Tanner Street Corridor now also faces a number of barriers to economic revitalization. At least six vacant or underutilized brownfields sites are located along the corridor, contaminated by heavy industrial use and in need of remediation. At the same time, many manufacturing companies have been forced to relocate outside of Lowell because a lack of viable available land has prevented expansion within the city.

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EPA Grants Demonstrate How Environmental and Economic Progress Can Go Hand in Hand

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today awarded $4 million to 23 communities as part of its Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Pilot Program. The grants, which focus on remediating potentially contaminated and reusing the sites to strengthen local economic growth, were announced this morning at a press conference in Cleveland, OH.

Transforming brownfields back into productive real estate is a critical part of economic revitalization for many communities. The reclamation process creates jobs, better housing options, and improved education and health facilities, while improving environmental conditions of the area as well.

“Redeveloping brownfields is about providing economic opportunity and jobs as much as it is about the environment,” said Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. “African American and Latino populations have been particularly hard hit by this recession. Brownfields are often located in minority and low income communities. These targeted grant investments can bring jobs to some of the communities that need them most, and not just in the short term. Re-using brownfields puts stranded economic assets back to work. These grants often lead to sustained interest and investment from the private sector.”

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EPA awards $4 million in brownfields area-wide planning grants

Twenty-three communities in 18 states have been selected to receive grants for area-wide planning around brownfield reclamation and revitalization projects. View the list of recipients here. Excerpted from the EPA press release: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it is awarding $4 million in assistance to 23 communities, many in under-served and economically … Continued

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EPA announces $16M in brownfield redevelopment supplemental funds

Communities in 27 state or local governments will receive over $16 million in supplemental funding for brownfields revolving loan fund grants. These supplemental funds will be used to help communities carry out cleanup activities, redevelopment projects, and create jobs for local residents. From the EPA press release: “By investing in clean-up and redevelopment projects, this … Continued

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New brownfields bill would encourage sustainability and revitalize communities

Since 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields Program has helped communities across the country assess and clean up thousands of those contaminated, vacant properties known collectively as “brownfields,” leveraging more than $14 billion in public and private investment and contributing to the creation of more than 60,000 jobs in the process. Over the last several months, Smart Growth America has been working as part of the National Brownfields Coalition to help reauthorize this vital program, with a series of amendments to improve it.

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Revitalization Advocates Applaud President Obama's FY2011 Budget

Atlantic Station in Atlanta in 1971, today a superb example of a successful brownfield restoration. The economic downturn changed the landscape of communities across the country — creating growing numbers of abandoned homes, shuttered auto manufacturing plants, and vacant land parcels. Distressed and economically disadvantaged areas have been hit worst of all, and more communities … Continued

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Award-winning brownfields project created vibrant green space, jobs center

Ten years ago, the Menomonee Valley in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was dead land. Today, after many years of clever ideas, careful planning, and hard work, people are fishing in the Menomonee River again — which runs right through the heart of Milwaukee. Commuters and recreational bicyclists are using the new bike paths. There’s a soccer field and even a canoe launch. The land hasn’t merely been cleaned of environmental hazards. It’s been transformed into a place where people want to spend their leisure time.

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