- posted at 04:30PM
- September 16, 2009
- by: Michael Stringer
- Email to a Friend
As both the public and private sectors develop strategies for economic recovery, the role of redeveloping brownfield properties is becoming increasingly important. Brownfields represent under-performing assets in communities and present a tremendous opportunity for public-private partnerships to foster sustainable economic development.
The Washington State Department of Ecology recently issued a policy report focusing on how to better integrate economic development with environmental cleanup. This report is a milestone marking a paradigm shift in the approach to the cleanup of contaminated sites. The traditional cleanup-driven perspective leads to a focus on liability for cleanup, which increases cleanup costs and can provide little in the way of tangible benefits. The emerging economics-driven perspective focuses on the financial benefits of returning a property to productive use. The economic development perspective speaks to the pressing concerns about fostering economic recovery and gives involved parties a strong incentive to find solutions rather than delay the cleanup process.
Examples of the effectiveness of this approach are growing:
The City of Everett has begun to redevelop a closed municipal landfill on the Snohomish River into a mixed-use commercial and residential center. The City realized that the landfill was a waste of prime real estate near their downtown and riverfront. They worked with the Department of Ecology on a consent decree with requirements for future redevelopment that would reach regulatory closure on liability issues. The consent decree was crafted around conceptual future land development options. This provided regulatory certainty that enabled the City to sell the property to a private developer that has begun construction on the site. The opportunity for redevelopment spurred cleanup of this property and allowed the remediation to be tailored to the future use.
The City of Palouse is now taking a similar approach to redevelopment of a blighted property in their downtown. They are working with MFA to identify options for reuse of a brownfield site that have the greatest economic and community benefit. Demonstrating the business case for redevelopment will attract both public and private investment. Understanding the redevelopment opportunity also allows for more cost-effective cleanup planning that can be implemented simultaneously with construction.
MFA has been a leader in developing this new approach to brownfields on a project and policy basis. Our recognition of the importance of integrating redevelopment and remediation planning was key to our decision to acquire the land use planning and landscape architecture firm Mitchell Nelson Group in 2007 and to add Jim Darling, former executive director for the Port of Bellingham, to its team this summer. MFA has expanded its capabilities to help clients develop future land use plans, community and economic development strategies, and cleanup plans with an integrated perspective.