Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What the Heck is a Brownfield?

So here is the legal definition of a Brownfield:
With certain legal exclusions and additions, the term "brownfield site" means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. [as defined in Public Law 107-118 (H.R. 2869) - "Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act" signed into law January 11, 2002]
Throughout the inner cores of cities in the US there are pieces of property that are lying vacant because they at one time had a gas station, a manufacturing facility or some other type of hazardous use performed on them.  Now that the New Urbanists are singing the praises of inner city living, more and more people are looking for places to live.  Unfortunately there's only so many housing units, but there is property that can be developed for housing if it can be cleaned up first, the brownfield.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a program that encourages the cleanup and reuse of brownfields.
provides direct funding for brownfields assessment, cleanup, revolving loans, and environmental job training. To facilitate the leveraging of public resources, EPA's Brownfields Program collaborates with other EPA programs, other federal partners, and state agencies to identify and make available resources that can be used for brownfields activities. In addition to direct brownfields funding, EPA also provides technical information on brownfields financing matters.
Funding and grants are provided for anything from coming up with an area wide assessment, to cleanup money, to job training grants.  They also have links to other federal agencies and private groups that offer grants and assisstance.  There is even a National Brownfield Association, a non-profit dedicated to sustainable development of previously undevelopable land.

Some successful brownfield developments are a Senior Citizen housing facility in Houston and and the Evans Avenue redevelopment project in  Fort Worth.  San Antonio's most well known brownfield redevelopment project is the old Alamo Cement Factory at Basse and Hwy 281, now the Quarry Market.  Even part of the San Antonio BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) plan includes the Fort Sam Houston sustainable neighborhood revitalization plan
One way to preserve valuable landscapes while accommodating a growing population is
to redevelop previously used urban lands, sometimes known as "brownfields."
Even with the expense of environmental clean-up, a recycled parcel is often less
expensive to develop than new land, because it is already serviced by roads, utilities,
and other infrastructure. Brownfield development also relieves some pressure to
develop farms and other open space.
In San Antonio, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (TIRZ) are used to faciliate brownfield redevelopment. 
The City uses TIF in areas where little to no private sector investment is currently taking place, and where redevelopment would not occur solely through private investment in the reasonably foreseeable future.
TIF allows future ad valorem and sales tax revenue to pay for the construction of public infrastructure improvements.
By leveraging private investment for certain types of development within a targeted area, TIF can be used to finance new and/or enhanced public improvements and infrastructure. These improvements and infrastructure, in turn, attract additional private investment in surrounding areas.
If you are interested in brownfield redevelopment contact the City of San Antonio Housing and Neighborhood Services Department's TIF Unit.

1 comment:

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