Brownfields represent an economic treasure trove of value for developers and provide significant benefits to local communities when developed. Brownfields are underutilized properties where the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants complicate the expansion or redevelopment/reuse options for such properties. Cleanup challenges include liability concerns for developers and future property owners. Conversely, the upside is typically the location and the existing infrastructure availability (existing water and sewer lines, electrical power, rail and highway corridors, mass transit).
Pennsylvania’s brownfields program, which has been in place since 1995, has proven to be a national model for transforming abandoned and idle properties into active economic opportunities. Under the Pennsylvania Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act (Act 2) over 6000 brownfield sites have been returned to productive use, thereby providing jobs and tax revenues to local communities across Pennsylvania. EPA estimates that brownfield redevelopment sites increase residential property values from 5 to 15%.
One brownfield redevelopment gem is situated on the waterfront in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Navy Yard, formerly home to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and Naval Base, was closed in the 1990s and then categorized as a Superfund site. A public-private partnership between the land owner (Philadelphia Authority of Industrial Development), the master developer (Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation), developer (Liberty Property Trust) and Synterra Partners, an urban design and project management firm, formed to redevelop the site that is now home to the Penn State Energy Center, GlaxoSmithKline, and the headquarters the Urban Outfitters. Sustainable development has been a focus, with seven LEED buildings to date, a walkable campus feel with considerable green space, and innovative stormwater management.
What is BCONE?
BCONE--the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast-- is a non-profit organization with brownfield professionals ( developers, property owners, lenders, attorneys, contractors and environmental consultants) from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Conn., and Delaware. BCONE is a clearing house of information on the latest developments-- both regionally and nationally—on trends in new technologies and financial incentives to improve the redevelopment process. As the northeast region has a large number of aging industrial tracts, information sharing and networking with colleagues in other neighboring states has led to improvements in the cleanup processes and financial incentive options that states and municipalities may use to attract new businesses.
Skelly Holmbeck is senior consultant at Advanced Geoservices Corp. and BCONE Board Member.Brian Clark, Esq. is a shareholder at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC and member of BCONE Advisory Board.