brownfields reclamation and land recycling
Brownfields 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.

Case Examples:

  • 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.


Resources:
David Bollier, How Smart Growth Can Stop Sprawl, a Briefing Guide for Funders .(Washington, D.C.: Essential Books), 1998. 

Website:
Northeast Midwest Institute
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.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Program
EPA is responsible for federal brownfield programs.  Their website lists all the relavent federal regulations, programs and regional contacts.