The difficult business of building on old gas stations

Across the country abandoned gas stations represent one of the trickiest problems facing small towns and big cities alike. In particular, old gas stations pose a threat to the land when their underground storage tanks begin to deteriorate, potentially leaking petroleum into the groundwater.

A recent New York Times article covered the ways in which the hamlet of High Falls, NY has sought to address the negative community impact of its abandoned gas stations. Investors have begun to clean up and redevelop these lots, and their efforts have turned unattractive, contaminated brownfields into office space, restaurants and small shops. These innovative projects are creating new ways to bring money into the local economy and are helping revitalize the community.

Brownfield redevelopment is not without obstacles, however. The small size of these lots can make them challenging to market to potential investors. Complex layers of regulation and funding streams mean that redevelopers, whether public or private, need specialized knowledge to succeed. Often the people with the strongest motivation to redevelop these sites are neighbors and community residents, but these parties are rarely equipped with the knowledge or resources to drive a complicated remediation process, especially with state and federal funding for these projects in short supply.

Smart Growth America released From Vacancy to Vibrancy in March 2012 to help communities seeking the economic benefits of redevelopment and community revitalization. The report explains why area-wide planning for brownfield redevelopment is an especially powerful tool for the transformation of petroleum tainted land into vibrant hubs for economic and community activity. By adopting area-wide strategies, cities and towns of all sizes can work to add tangible economic value to their communities and transform their neighborhoods.

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Photo by flickr user Roadsidepictures