In today’s volatile marketplace, finding those properties with high returns on investment can seem improbable. What drives the highest returns is location, location, location. But where in the New York Metropolitan area can you find such properties with untapped potential? Some of the most sought out properties are located on the rivers, or overlooking an environmentally sensitive natural resource such as a lake, ocean, pond, etc.. Land use regulations have made it virtually impossible to expand development into any pristine areas, however, an untapped market is purchasing environmentally impacted properties.
A large number of residually impacted Brownfield properties are located adjacent to rivers, streams and oceans in New York and New Jersey, just waiting for savvy investors to take advantage of their low price square footage due to the previous industrial operations. These Brownfield properties contain only low-level concentrations of contaminants which can easily be addressed through innovative remediation strategies. These innovative strategies include the use of geotextile liners, passive venting of vapors and phytoremediation capping. Of all of these, phytoremediation capping on large properties with ecological concerns can be both the most cost effective and the only remediation strategy accepted by the Departments of Environmental Protection. This is because the cost of excavating soil and then backfilling with clean certified soil has skyrocketed in price and is often not allowed because it will destroy the sensitive receptor’s natural habitat, and/or hydrology, causing natural resource damages that can render the property a complete financial loss. By marrying redevelopment with maintaining sensitive receptors and complying with environmental regulations you can reap the benefits at a much larger scale than with pristine properties.
The only thing certain in life is change, and with it the political infrastructure that fuels the Environmental Protection Agencies frame of reference. This in turn fuels the market for growth and expansion or stagnation through regulatory changes. New Jersey has just recently gone through major regulatory changes with respect to environmental legislation directives. No longer can former industrial sites lay fallow and just pay taxes on properties while they monitor environmental impacts, they must resolve environmental issues within a five-year time frame. This program of reevaluation was initiated largely in 2012 with the Licensed State Remediation Professionals (LSRP) program. This means the majority of former industrial properties with historic contamination are due for closure in 2018 in New Jersey. This will provide an explosion of properties that have already been investigated and remediated to some extent, located in ideal real estate markets. The key to navigating a successful return is understanding your environmental liability prior to purchasing the property with respect to the current regulatory framework.
Historically these Brownfields and former industrial properties have been shied away from due to the high quotient of unknowns when compared to pristine properties. The unknowns revolved around the variables of environmental legislation changes, state and municipal economies and lack of information due to improper, or incomplete environmental investigation. This has all changed for the better and is allowing for a much higher probability of success with respect to redevelopment of Brownfield properties because with the LSRP program your due diligence Phase I Site Assessments actually contain the correct information for careful evaluation. So don’t be afraid to engage in speculation of Brownfield properties, you may be overlooking a tremendous asset for redevelopment.
Katrina VanDeusen is Director of Ecological Engineering at Environmental Logic, LLC.