Underutilized Industrial and Commercial Properties (Brownfields)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines brownfields as “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.” These properties are often abandoned land and/or structures once utilized in the energy exploration, steel production, and manufacturing industries. Brownfields can also be former gasoline stations, dry cleaners, vehicle repair shops, foundries, rail yards, or even households.

Brownfield Issues:

A property may be initially identified as a brownfield based on real or perceived contamination. Prospective participants in the redevelopment process, including developers, financial lenders, and investors, may view properties where environmental contamination may have occurred as high risk. Properties where industrial activities have taken place that utilized chemicals or heavy metals are frequently seen as unpredictable development ventures. Consequently, brownfield properties are often avoided until an environmental assessment is conducted that clearly defines any environmental issues and remediation costs.

Benefits of Redevelopment:

The remediation and reuse of these properties stimulates additional investment. Underutilized industrial and commercial properties have economic value to a community, and they can function as a catalyst for additional development. These properties typically have access to existing infrastructure (roads, sewer, etc.), reducing development costs. Redevelopment will remove the stigma of blight, increase property values, create job opportunities, and enhance the public and environmental health of the area while putting the properties back into productive use.  Redeveloping underutilized industrial and commercial properties can improve the social, economic, and physical health of a community. The process, however, can be complicated. Below are links to additional resources.

Assistance and Resources:

  • RPCGB Underutilized Industrial and Commercial Properties Map – This map application provides site information regarding properties identified by the EPA and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) as being associated in targeted cleanup efforts or having been included in the state Brownfield Voluntary Cleanup Program (BVCP).

  • EPA Brownfields Program – This program administered through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides grants and technical assistance to communities, states, tribes, and others regarding the redevelopment process. The EPA’s Brownfield Program is designed to empower states, communities, and other stakeholders in economic redevelopment to work together in a timely manner to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields.

  • Alabama Department of Environmental Management – ADEM administers a program for the redevelopment of brownfields sites in Alabama through their Voluntary Cleanup Program as well as coordination with EPA grant opportunities.

  • Urban Land Institute – The ULI Brownfield Redevelopment Case Studies page provides insight and ideas for a variety of redevelopments across the country.

  • American Planning Association – The APA developed and published a guide for community-based brownfields redevelopment strategies. It is designed to help community-based organizations recognize the opportunities for revitalization and to provide information to aid local communities in the often complicated process of site cleanup and redevelopment.

  • Center for Creative Land Recycling – This national, non-profit organization provides a variety of resources for redevelopment efforts.

  • Brownfields Listings – BL is a property marketplace and project workspace for real state with reuse challenges. This organization provides a variety of resources for redevelopment efforts.