People tend to equate Brownfield's with large abandoned industrial sites. Although these lager industrial sites are often the most recognizable, they are by no means the only type of brownfield. Small Neighborhood Brownfields (SNB) litter our core communities. Often they are unnoticed by residents and go unaddressed by developers. But out of sight out of mind is not an option. SNB's drain local resources and compromise the health and safety of our communities.
The Environmental Protection Agency defines a Brownfield as any “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.” In our core communities they take the form of old service stations, dry cleaners, repair shops, and abandoned schools.
Why Focus On Small Brownfields?
Brownfield's can have a number of potentially devastating effects on a community. First, vacated and often blighted, Brownfields are a financial drain on the community. They demand more resources and produce less income then a functional property.
These properties also pose a community safety risk. They become places for derelicts to congregate and kids to explore. Depending on the type and amount of contamination, Brownfields can be a health concern for the surrounding properties. Lastly, they become a beacon for community disinvestment and social disorder. Since Brownfields can sit vacant for years, they become a constant reminder of better days gone by.
But with the global focus turning to environmental sustainability, energy conservation, and healthy environments, the redevelopment of small Brownfields is beginning to receive more attention. Redeveloping or reusing an already developed piece of land is more environmentally sensitive then building on a Greenfield, primarily because infrastructure such as water, sewer and roads are already in place.
The community benefits of redeveloping a Brownfield include:
- Reducing urban sprawl
- Creating new local revenue
- Creating and retaining jobs
- Starting, or contributing to, the revitalization of a neighborhood
- Increasing sense of community pride
- Increasing quality of life
- Decreasing municipal cost associated with monitoring and policing the site.
- Increasing the public safety