are abandoned, idle or under-used industrial and commercial facilities
where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental
contamination. Land recycling is the re-use of land that is unused or under-utilized,
whether or not it is contaminated. Both of these strategies are important
for reclaiming the city and improving its social and economic vitality.
Brownfields are less toxic than superfund sites,
but not as pristine as "greenfield" sites in outlying areas. The U.S. Department
of Housing and Urban Development estimates there are about 450,000 brownfield
sites in the U.S. Brownfields pose environmental risks, but -- with
the proper intervention and funding by government -- they can be converted
into attractive sites for new business investment and urban growth.
Some states, realizing the multiple economic benefits
that can result, are providing incentives for brownfields reclamation.
Only four states do not have a regulatory format for cleanup: Wyoming,
New York, North and South Dakota.
BASF South Works — Wyandotte, Michigan:
This project involved transforming a defunct, 84-acre chemical manufacturing
plant along the Detroit River into a public recreation area and a nine-hole
golf course. Through a combination of public and private funding (the city
utilized tax increment financing, state grants, and bonds), the city was
able to revitalize the waterfront and the once-blighted neighborhood around
BASF's plant. This redevelopment has precipitated a domino effect of economic
growth throughout downtown Wyandotte. BASF's project highlights the importance
of a strong public/private partnership, as well as illustrates how a large
company can use brownfield cleanup to bolster its corporate image.
Northeast Retail Project (Johnson Street Quarry)
— Minneapolis, Minnesota: By the 1990s, the once-active Johnson Street
Quarry had become a blighted, under-utilized property that contributed
to the economic decline of northeast Minneapolis. In 1993, the Ryan Company,
a local developer, approached the city with a plan. If the Minneapolis
Community Development Agency (MCDA) acquired various quarry parcels and
conducted necessary remediation, Ryan would purchase the site for twice
its market value (which, even then, would be significantly less than the
public costs to prepare the site) and build a 420,000-square foot discount
shopping mall. As of late 1996, all properties had been acquired and remediation
had begun. Project costs are expected to total nearly $60 million, divided
between public and private sources. Despite high expenditures, the MCDA
views the deal as public funds well spent. Benefits include extensive environmental
cleanup, blight elimination, creation of 1,700 full- and part-time jobs,
tax-base enhancements (both property and sales), and stabilization of a
neighborhood that had been declining. The city will recoup its costs within
15 years through property taxes and revenues generated from the tax increment
finance district. This project involved extensive community involvement,
as well as strong public/private cooperation.
Fallon/St. Vincent Medical City — Worcester, Massachusetts:
In 1992, two of the largest health care providers in Worcester merged with
the hope of building a $200-million integrated health facility in an urban
setting. Eager to attract the hospital, city officials immediately created
an institution to oversee the endeavor — the Worcester Redevelopment Authority
— and began targeting properties within a 24-acre blighted area for acquisition.
By 1996, all structures had been demolished and the graded property was
conveyed to the purchaser for $6.4 million with a Covenant-Not-to-Sue.
Total public expenditures on the project were $42 million, split between
the state and the city. City officials expect to see a huge return on their
investment. Once operational, the facility will provide nearly 3,000 new
jobs and will generate $875 million in total direct economic impacts within
the first ten years ($1.9 billion in indirect economic impacts). This case
study illustrates how strong public/private cooperation can save time and
produce immense cost-savings. It also demonstrates the importance of establishing
an effective institutional framework — in this case, the Worcester Redevelopment
Authority — to oversee brownfield redevelopment activities.
David Bollier, How Smart Growth Can Stop Sprawl,
a Briefing Guide for Funders .(Washington, D.C.: Essential Books),
The Northeast-Midwest Institute is a Washington-based,
private, non-profit, and non-partisan research organization dedicated to
economic vitality, environmental quality, and regional equity for Northeast
and Midwest states. Much of their work has been tracking and analyzing
state and federal brownfields policies for the past twenty years.
Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Program
EPA is responsible for federal brownfield programs.
Their website lists all the relavent federal regulations, programs and