Look around you. We have more than 2,000 people
here today -- mayors, community activists, environmentalists,
developers, bankers, entrepreneurs, officials from all levels
of government -- and we're all working together toward a common
vision: clean, safe, healthy, thriving communities across America.
Carol M. Browner
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Opening comments at Brownfields '98
Los Angeles, California
16 November 1998
been defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as "[a]bandoned,
idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or
redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination."
The U. S. Conference of Mayors has characterized brownfields as "dead zones"
and as "pockets of disinvestment, neglect and missed opportunities"
that exist within American cities. In part, the scope of the problem can be
seen by the sheer number of brownfield sites. The U.S. General Accounting Office,
for example, has concluded that there may be between 130,000 and 450,000 contaminated
commercial and industrial sites located within the United States. By another
estimate, as many as 650,000 brownfield sites may be located throughout the
Brownfields exist in a wide
variety of urban settings. In a recent study undertaken by the U.S. Conference
of Mayors, 126 cities responding to a request for information reported a total
of 16,531 brownfields sites and 122 cities reported a total of 47,384 acres
of urban land consumed by brownfields. The problem arises irrespective of the
size of the city. In the same study, 88 cities having populations of less than
100,000 reported 1,465 brownfields sites consuming 16,000 acres of urban land
and 53 cities having populations of less than 50,000 reported 618 brownfields
sites consuming 6,305 acres of urban land. To provide the proper perspective,
it must be remembered that there are more than 18,000 cities and towns in the
The costs associated with
brownfields are significant. In terms of lost tax revenues, for example, the
Conference of Mayors also conducted a survey of 33 cities within which brownfields
are located. The lost tax revenues were estimated to range between $121 million
and $386 million per year in these cities alone. On a national scale, local
governments "could be losing billions of dollars each year in local tax
receipts resulting from their failure to restore brownfields to economic viability."
It has been argued that the
redevelopment of brownfields will have significant positive economic benefits
by creating new employment opportunities, improving quality of life and increasing
the municipal tax base once redeveloped properties are returned to the tax rolls.
This is especially important if ad valorem taxation is the basis for public
school funding and the provision of other municipal services. As these benefits
accrue, urban neighborhoods should be revitalized.
In addition, it has been suggested
that the redevelopment of brownfields could serve as a check or constraint on
urban sprawl by reducing developmental pressures on greenfields. This is an
issue of growing concern. According to the American Farmland Trust, between
1982 and 1992, 13,823,000 acres of land were converted to urban use. Of this
total, 4,266,000 acres were either prime or unique farmland. In fact, at the
present time, farmland in the United States is being lost to urbanization at
a rate of approximately two acres per minute.
Unfortunately, the cost of
restoring brownfields to economic viability may be beyond the capability of
many state and local governments. Though remediation costs are always site-specific,
total remediation costs for all of the brownfields located within the United
States have been estimated to exceed $650 billion. Consequently, it is imperative
that private capital be attracted to the redevelopment of brownfields.
In 1997, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and The George Washington University (GWU) entered into
a cooperative agreement to attempt to answer certain questions relating to the
redevelopment of brownfields. The first question focused on the extent to which
the redevelopment of brownfields reduced developmental pressures on undeveloped
suburban or rural areas ("greenfields"). The second question concerned
economic benefits that are induced by the redevelopment of brownfields. Statutes
and regulations that either inhibit the redevelopment of brownfields or that
encourage the development of greenfields were the focus of questions three and
four. Question three addressed federal statutes and regulations while question
four addressed statutes and regulations at the state and local level.
To answer these questions,
a "Work Plan" was developed and submitted to EPA in December of 1997.
The research described in the "Work Plan" has been completed and is
summarized herein. This research sheds light on answers to two key, higher-level,
questions. First, does the redevelopment of brownfields actually serve as a
check or constraint on urban sprawl? Second, what are the critical factors (and
the relative weights of those factors) that most influenced specific decisions
to redevelop brownfields?
The methodology used to answer
these questions is discussed in Chapter 3: Research Approach and Methodology.
With regard to questions concerning the degree to which brownfields redevelopment
may serve as a check or constraint on urban sprawl, one of the primary means
of determining the relationship between the redevelopment of brownfields and
the reduction of developmental pressures on greenfields was to conduct a series
of in-depth interviews with both public and private sector individuals involved
in the redevelopment of brownfields in selected metropolitan areas. The results
of these interviews formed the principal basis for determining areal differentials
("offsets") between the redevelopment of brownfields and the development
of greenfields. These interviews provided site-specific information on successful
brownfields redevelopment projects. This information was utilized to calculate
the minimum amount of land that the redevelopment project would have required
if it had been developed in a greenfields area. The results from these calculations
are presented in Chapter 5: Brownfield/Greenfield Tradeoffs. These interviews
also provided information on the extent to which individuals making redevelopment
decisions considered greenfield development as an alternative to the redevelopment
of a brownfield (or vice versa).
With regard to critical factors
most influencing specific decisions to redevelop brownfields, the interviews
also formed the principal basis for determining critical factors that most influenced
redevelopment decisions. These critical factors (as well as the relative weights
of the factors) are summarized in Chapter 7: Impediments and Incentives to the
Redevelopment of Brownfields.
Conclusions are presented
in Chapter 8 with the Bibliography following. Appendix A lists all of the individuals
who were interviewed during the course of the study. Detailed information on
the metropolitan areas that were included in the study is presented in Appendix
B. The phase one interview form and the sample tract illustrations that were
used during the interview process are attached as Appendices C and D, respectively.
The individuals and organizations contacted during an Internet-based survey
are listed in Appendix E. Appendix F contains detailed information on the sites
and the calculations that form the basis for the determination of areal differentials.
1.2 Importance of the Study
The U.S. Conference of Mayors
has made the redevelopment of brownfields its highest priority. The reasons
are both simple and complex.
Simply stated, it is imperative
that land be recycled, not abandoned. The hundreds of thousands of acres of
land that have been abandoned in metropolitan areas throughout the United States,
most of which falls within the definition of brownfields, have had profoundly
negative impacts on those areas. In many instances, the key to revitalizing
these metropolitan areas is the redevelopment of brownfields. Such redevelopment
projects may be the "seed crystal" around which urban revitalization
In addition, there are other
(and more complex) reasons for removing barriers to the redevelopment of brownfields
and for providing incentives to encourage such development. One reason is environmental
justice. Suburban areas have continued to grow, aided in large measure by "white
flight" from the cities. This population shift has left many cities with
fewer citizens. Of those citizens who remain, an increasing percentage consists
of low income or members of minority groups, or both. Within this context can
be seen a pattern of private industry abandoning urban lands when the continued
use or redevelopment of those lands is no longer convenient or economically
justifiable. As a result, abandoned lands disappear from the tax roles and make
it progressively more difficult for cities to maintain urban services because
of the loss of tax revenues. The resulting decline in the quality of life is
imposed on the residents remaining in the cities, not on the individuals or
companies who chose to abandon their properties and leave the cities.
A better understanding of
the critical factors that influence brownfield redevelopment decisions and of
the areal differentials that exist between brownfield redevelopment and greenfield
development will have benefits to the local community, to the metropolitan area
within which the community is located, to the nation and to the world.
1.2.1 Benefits to the local
Facilitating the redevelopment
of brownfields will have profound effects on the local community. Redeveloping
such properties should return them to the tax roles and allow the local community
to benefit from ad valorem taxation. This, in turn, would increase available
funding for the full range of public services including such essential functions
as education and health care. Redevelopment projects should provide new employment
opportunities. Such projects also reduce urban crime and facilitate law enforcement
by removing abandoned buildings and restoring private security functions. Perhaps
most importantly, brownfield redevelopment projects renew the spirit of a community
and revitalize the residents of that community. In many instances, redevelopment
projects involve the restoration of historic properties, restoration of which
provides "a sense of place" and improves the quality of urban life
1.2.2 Benefits to the metropolitan
area within which
the community is located.
Many of the benefits described
above are also regional benefits. A reduction in crime rates, for example, benefits
the entire metropolitan area within which the community is located, not just
the community in which crime rates have been reduced. Redeveloping brownfields
should have the effect over time of reducing the amount of financial assistance
that many cities need in order to provide essential public services. As need
for financial assistance declines, so would the obligation of governmental entities
at all levels to provide such assistance. The economic benefits resulting from
the redevelopment of brownfields will be felt throughout the metropolitan area
within which the community is located. These benefits are not limited to the
community itself. Brownfield redevelopment projects that provide employment
opportunities near areas where community residents live have the effect of reducing
commuting needs. This produces positive benefits both from an air quality perspective
and as a means of reducing vehicular congestion. As discussed herein, redevelopment
of brownfields also acts as a check on urban sprawl by reducing development
pressures on greenfields.
1.2.3 Benefits to the nation.
In one form or another, much
of the financial assistance received by many communities comes from the federal
government. The redevelopment of brownfields could reduce the need for such
financial assistance. In many ways, the benefits to nation are similar to the
benefits to the metropolitan area: Reduction in crime, increase in employment,
economic growth with concomitant increases in tax revenues and reduction in
demands for assistance. Related to these benefits is assistance in achieving
the goals of a number of federal environmental protection statutes, including
attainment of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards of the Clean Air Act.
The revitalization of specific communities also could assist in achieving national
environmental justice goals.
1.2.4 Benefits to the world.
The problem of abandoned urban
properties is not unique to the United States. As the world of the present becomes
a "post-industrial" world, the problem of abandoned properties (particularly
abandoned industrial properties) has become one of global dimension. The ways
in which such properties are redeveloped in the United States could provide
a model that would be applicable in many areas of the world. This is particularly
true with regard to alternative means of financing redevelopment projects. The
public-private partnership approach that has been utilized in many communities
could be implemented in urban areas throughout the world. The likelihood of
this occurring has been enhanced by the increasing presence of multinational
Back to top
of the Problem.
To improve understanding of the role that brownfields redevelopment may play as a check or constraint on urban sprawl and to facilitate the redevelopment of brownfields by helping to eliminate barriers and provide incentives for such redevelopment.
This problem may be resolved
through the investigation and solution of the subproblems identified in the
In order to accomplish the
purposes of this study, the following subproblems must be resolved:
Subproblem 1: To determine
the extent to which the redevelopment of brownfield sites
reduces developmental pressures on undeveloped or rural areas ("greenfields.")
Subproblem 2: To identify benefits induced by the redevelopment of brownfield sites and to utilize benefit information to help prioritize brownfield site redevelopment efforts.
Subproblem 3: To identify
federal statutes, regulations and policies that either inhibit the
redevelopment of brownfield sites or that encourage the development of greenfield sites and to determine the critical factors that influence decisions to redevelop brownfield sites and the relative weights for those factors.
Subproblem 4: To identify state and local statutes, regulations and policies that either inhibit the redevelopment of brownfield sites or that encourage the development of greenfield sites and to determine the critical factors that influence decisions to redevelop brownfield sites and the relative weights for those factors.
2.3 Component Questions and Research Rationale
In addressing Subproblem 1,
the principal research approach involves the determination of the areal differentials
that exist between the amount of land that would be required for the development
of specific projects utilizing brownfields as compared to the amount of land
that would be required if development occurred on greenfields.
Three component questions
must be answered to successfully resolve the first subproblem. First, what are
the areal differentials? Second, to what extent can these areal differentials
be confirmed utilizing secondary or tertiary sources of information? Third,
in the context of specific development or redevelopment decisions, to what extent
did individual decision makers consider greenfield development as an alternative
to the redevelopment of a brownfield (or vice versa)?
In terms of resolving subproblem
one and its component questions, it is essential to determine the minimum amount
of land that a brownfield redevelopment project would have required if it had
been located in a greenfield area. It would be helpful if these differentials
could be validated utilizing secondary or tertiary sources of information. Finally,
in order to facilitate the redevelopment of brownfields, it is important to
understand the extent to which individual decision makers considered the redevelopment
of brownfields as an alternative to the development of greenfields (and vice
Key component questions in
addressing Subproblems 3 and 4 involve the determination of critical factors
that influence decisions to redevelop brownfields and the relative weights of
those factors. Four component questions must be answered to successfully resolve
these subproblems. First, what are the critical factors (and the relative weights
of these factors) that most influence decisions regarding the redevelopment
of brownfields? Second, do federal or state statutes or regulations impose barriers
to the redevelopment of brownfields? Third, of those federal or state statutes
or regulations that provide incentives for the redevelopment of brownfields,
which have been successful? Fourth, of those federal or state statutes or regulations
that provide incentives for the redevelopment of brownfields, which have not
The specific need is to determine
and weigh those factors that most influence private decisions to invest in brownfield
redevelopment projects. Information is needed regarding the factors that lead
to decisions to redevelop brownfield sites rather than to develop greenfields.
In essence, it is necessary to ascertain the key variables that influence both
public and private land use decisions regarding the redevelopment of brownfields.
It is also necessary to determine the extent to which federal or state statutes
and regulations are either encouraging or inhibiting the redevelopment of brownfields.
Table of Contents
Research Approach and Methodology
3.1 Background Research
In order to address the problem,
subproblems and component questions identified in the preceding chapter, the
first step was to undertake a comprehensive review of relevant literature. The
primary purpose of the literature review was to determine key variables that
were presented as either inhibiting or enhancing the redevelopment of brownfields.
The results of this literature review are presented in Chapter 4.
In order to understand the
relationship between the redevelopment of brownfields and the development of
greenfields, it was necessary to determine which of the key variables identified
during the literature review were, in fact, critical factors affecting individual
decisions. To make this determination, two series of interviews were conducted
with public and private sector individuals involved either in the redevelopment
of brownfields or the development of greenfields in selected metropolitan areas.
3.2 Selection of the Study
Two groups of study areas
were selected. The first group, which was intended to lead to an understanding
of both the key variables that influence public and private land use decisions
and the relationship between the redevelopment of brownfields and the development
of greenfields, included six metropolitan areas meeting the following three
criteria: First, the population of the core city within the metropolitan area
either was declining or had remained relatively stable. Second, the total population
of the metropolitan area was increasing. Third, the study area had to include
an EPA Pilot Program city.
In terms of fulfilling the
requirements of these criteria, population changes in Pilot Program cities were
compared to population changes in adjoining or nearby areas using Bureau of
the Census population data. This comparison produced a differential that was
a representation of the population changes in the two areas. These differentials
were then ranked and the six areas with the greatest differentials were selected
for inclusion in the study.
A similar selection procedure
was utilized to select the second group of metropolitan areas. These additional
areas were included in order to make the results of the study as robust as possible
for brownfield redevelopment projects in a variety of metropolitan areas.
As noted above, the Pilot
Program cities and the metropolitan areas within which they are located were
ranked according to the population differentials previously discussed. Once
this ranking had been completed, six study areas were identified as follows:
Two study areas were selected from that third of the continuum having the greatest
population differentials, two study areas were selected from that third of the
continuum having the lowest population differentials and two study areas were
selected from the middle third of the continuum. Because the third of the continuum
having the greatest population differentials overlaps with the criteria that
were utilized for the selection of the first six study areas, a total of ten
study areas were selected.
The assumption upon which
selection of the study areas was based is that brownfields are more likely to
have been redeveloped in cities where the differential is lowest (where population
changes in the city and the surrounding area have been relatively equal) than
in cities where the differential is greatest (where the surrounding area has
continued to grow but the city has not). The selection of these study areas
was subject to EPA approval. Concern was expressed that certain areas of the
United States were not represented by the study areas that had been selected
initially. As a result, utilizing the same selection criteria and population
differentials noted above, the selections were adjusted slightly to be more
representative. The two groups of study areas are depicted in the following
Study Areas Selected to Assist in the Determination of Key Variables Influencing the Relationship Between Brownfields Redevelopment and Greenfields Development and to Provide Project-Specific Data as Needed to Calculate Brownfields/Greenfields Offsets
City Core Area
1990-94 Population Change
St. Louis,Missouri(See Appendix B-10)
St. Louis MetropolitanStatistical Area
Lowell,Massachusetts(See Appendix B-7)
Boston-Worcester-Lawrence-Lowell-Brockton New England County Metropolitan Area
Burlington,Vermont(See Appendix B-2)
Burlington New England County Metropolitan Area
Baltimore,Maryland(See Appendix B-1)
Baltimore Primary MetropolitanStatistical Area
Richmond,Virginia(See Appendix B-8)
Richmond-PetersburgMetropolitan Statistical Area
Sacramento,California(See Appendix B-9)
Sacramento PrimaryMetropolitan Statistical Area
Study Areas Selected to Assist in the Determination
of Key Variables Influencing the Relationship Between
Brownfields Redevelopment and Greenfields Development
City Core Area
1990-94 Population Change
St. Louis,Missouri(See Appendix B-10)
St. Louis MetropolitanStatistical Area
Lowell,Massachusetts(See Appendix B-7)
Boston-Worcester-Lawrence-Lowell-Brockton New England County Metropolitan Area
Houston,Texas(See Appendix B-6)
Houston Primary MetropolitanStatistical Area
Detroit,Michigan(See Appendix B-5)
Detroit Primary MetropolitanStatistical Area
Cleveland,Ohio(See Appendix B-4)
Cleveland, Lorain, ElyriaPrimary MetropolitanStatistical Area
Charlotte,North Carolina(See Appendix B-3)
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill MetropolitanStatistical Area
of Brownfields Redevelopment Activities
compiled on brownfields redevelopment activities in each of the study areas.
These materials included summaries of brownfields redevelopment activities within
each study area, summaries of state initiatives and programs for the state in
which the study area is located, case studies of brownfields redevelopment projects
and other materials such as articles and reports that related to specific brownfield
redevelopment activities. These materials were reviewed in anticipation of interviews
in each of the study areas.
3.4 The Interview
In addition to
the compilation of materials, lists were prepared of appropriate individuals
to interview in each of the study areas. Included on the lists were the EPA
brownfield coordinators for the specific regions within which the study areas
were located, appropriate state and local governmental representatives, representatives
of the business and economic development communities and representatives of
other stakeholder groups (e.g., environmental justice advocates).
After these lists
had been compiled, specific individuals within each of the study areas were
contacted and, if possible, an interview was scheduled. The scheduling of these
interviews was then confirmed through a telefax sent to each of the individuals
to be interviewed. In addition to confirming the time and location of the interview,
this telefax explained the background of the research project and indicated
in general terms the questions that would be asked during the interview.
3.4.1 Phase One Interviews
The phase one
interviews were conducted primarily with public sector individuals involved
in the redevelopment of brownfields in the study areas. These interviews had
two primary purposes.
The first purpose
was to identify specific individuals who had been involved in successful brownfield
redevelopment projects. These individuals, who would become the focus of the
phase two interviews, were identified only for the six study areas having the
greatest population differentials.
The second purpose
was to identify key variables that most influenced decisions either to redevelop
brownfields or to develop greenfields. As discussed previously, these interviews
were conducted with individuals representing all ten of the study areas. The
additional areas were included in order to make the results of the phase one
interviews as robust as possible regarding brownfield redevelopment projects
in a variety of metropolitan areas.
The phase one
interviews were conducted either in the study area or in Los Angeles at Brownfields
'98. At the beginning of each interview, the person being interviewed was asked
to review and sign an "Informed Consent Form: Research Project on Brownfields
Redevelopment." This procedure allowed the interviewer to explain the background
of the research project and to set the context for the interview. The "Informed
Consent Forms" were seen by many of the participants as being quite humorous.
This had the unintended effect of "breaking the ice" and, indirectly,
facilitated the interview process.
All of the phase
two interviews were conducted in the six study areas during two or three visits
to each metropolitan area. These interviews, which began shortly after analysis
of the phase one interviews had been completed, were conducted through August
As noted above,
specific brownfield redevelopment decisions were of primary concern during the
phase two interviews. These interviews focused on key variables that most influenced
individual redevelopment decisions. In order to provide a basis for the brownfield/greenfield
offsets discussed in Chapter 5, as much information as possible regarding specific
brownfield redevelopment projects was obtained during the phase two interviews.
Each of the interviews
conducted during the first phase of interviews utilized a standard interview
form focusing on issues that were of concern or interest to individuals representing
different public sector entities. The issues identified in the interview form
were derived from the literature review discussed in Chapter 4. In addition
to the identification of issues, prior to development of the interview form,
numerous previously utilized survey research tools (and the results of recent
research utilizing such tools) were reviewed. Of particular note was the methodology
used by the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) at North Carolina
State University. Recent CTE research, which focused on environmental compliance
costs for highways, utilized a methodology that provided a model that was utilized
(with appropriate modifications) in the development of the standard interview
of the questions asked of the individuals being interviewed were leading questions.
A different interview protocol was utilized during the second phase of interviews.
Unlike the first phase of interviews, the second phase did not utilize a standard
interview form and only open ended questions were asked.
of two different types of questions was based on the belief that critical factors
identified in both the first and second interview phases are in actuality the
critical factors affecting the redevelopment of brownfields. As a result of
using open ended questions, however, the range and number of issues addressed
during the phase two interviews were considerably narrower than during the phase
Also unlike the
first phase, the second phase of interviews utilized illustrations of sample
brownfield and greenfield tracts. This illustration was used to determine whether
the individual being interviewed had considered greenfield development as an
alternative to the redevelopment of a brownfield (or vice versa). It was anticipated
that the use of illustrations of alternative tracts would provide information
on the specific factors that influenced the selection of a specific tract. For
situations where the redevelopment of a brownfield was considered and rejected,
information was needed regarding the critical factors responsible for the decision,
changes in the critical factors that could have affected the decision to the
extent that brownfield redevelopment would have been the selected alternative
and the nature and characteristics of the brownfield sites that would have been
redeveloped if desired conditions on the critical factors had been provided.
For situations where the redevelopment of a brownfield was the selected alternative,
information was needed regarding the nature and characteristics of the brownfield
site as well as identification of alternative greenfield sites that would have
been selected had the brownfield site not been selected or had conditions leading
to selection of the brownfield site not been adequate to support the selection
When the "Work
Plan" discussed in Chapter 1 was being developed, it was thought that the
results of the interview process would be subject to confirmation utilizing
a national survey research instrument. During the interview process, however,
a significant number of the individuals interviewed, when informed of the pending
use of such an instrument, argued that a national survey would not be worth
the time and expense that it would require. One individual involved in the redevelopment
of brownfields, for example, noted that he had received "over thirty"
brownfield-related surveys in the previous month and that he had ignored all
that was developed to confirm the results of the interview process (particularly
the areal differentials discussed in Chapter 5) was an Internet-based survey.
This survey focused on individuals and organizations involved with urban redevelopment
and "smart growth" issues. These organizations were identified utilizing
both personal information and commonly available Internet search engines. In
most instances, specific individuals within such organizations also were identified.
A standard email message was then sent to both the individuals and the organizations.
The message was also posted to those Internet newsgroups that focused on land
use and related issues. This message (reproduced in part below) posed the following
I am working on a study that seeks to compare the amount of land needed for a project in terms of the location of the project. Here's the hypothetical: A company has the option of locating a production facility either in an urban area that is being redeveloped or in an undeveloped suburban/rural area. Question: What is the differential (if any) in the amount of land that would be required if the same facility could be located in either location?
My preliminary research indicates that the same facility will require more land if located in a suburban/rural setting than if located on an urban setting. The reasons for this include such things as zoning requirements to preserve green space, setback requirements, wetland protection requirements, nonpoint source control requirements, density limitations, etc. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any type of an analysis of the additional acreage that would be required when suburban or rural areas are developed as opposed to urban areas being redeveloped.
If a response was forthcoming, follow-up questions were asked regarding the critical factors that influenced decisions regarding either the redevelopment of brownfields or the development of greenfields. When appropriate, questions regarding the relative weights of the critical factors were also asked.
of Data Sources
In essence, as depicted in Figure 1, the first phase of interviews focused on secondary data sources that served to identify and confirm the primary sources of information. The second phase of interviews focused on primary sources of information regarding the critical factors (and the relative weights of those factors) that influenced specific brownfield redevelopment decisions. The Internet-based survey, which was intended to confirm both the primary and secondary source results, focused on tertiary sources of information.
Data Sources for Brownfield/Greenfield Offsets Research Task
Primary Data Sources
of primary sources
Confirmation of primary source results
Secondary Data Sources
of primary and secondary source results
Tertiary Data Sources
Table of Contents
Initially, with regard to
federal and state statutes and regulations, it must be noted that many of the
impediments and incentives identified in the literature are only indirectly
related to statutory and regulatory requirements. Many impediments and incentives
are posed by private sector financial considerations.
A literature review was undertaken
in order to identify federal and state statutes and regulations that either
inhibit the redevelopment of brownfields or that encourage the development of
greenfields. Based on this review, it appears that impediments and incentives
fall into five general categories: Information Issues, Site Acquisition Issues,
Financing Issues, Permitting Issues and Site Development Issues. A sixth category
(Miscellaneous Issues) includes impediments and incentives that do not fall
readily into any of the five general categories.
4.1 Information Issues
Absence of information regarding
available properties has been identified as an impediment to the redevelopment
of brownfields. In essence, what brownfields are available for redevelopment?
Related to this question is the absence of site-specific information. Preliminary
environmental assessments are not available for many brownfield sites. The absence
of such information, it has been argued, inhibits private sector decisions to
4.2 Site Acquisition Issues
With regard to the acquisition
of a brownfield site, the literature indicates that a significant impediment
is valuing the property or agreeing on a price for the property. Typically,
it appears that the seller seeks a sale price that does not reflect the brownfield
status of the property while the buyer seeks exactly the opposite.
The literature also indicates that the potential for seller liability under federal law for conditions that may exist at the brownfields site has created a liability "ambiguity" that discourages the sale of brownfields. Rather than confront such liability directly, it has been argued that many owners of brownfield sites may prefer not to sell their property. Such a preference, of course, would forestall any subsequent redevelopment of the property.
4.3 Financing Issues
The issue of potential lender
liability has arisen consistently in the literature. Because of the liability
"ambiguity" discussed in the preceding section, it has been asserted
that many lending institutions refuse to finance the redevelopment of brownfields.
Related to this issue is uncertainty regarding state limits on lender liability.
A second financing issue that
has been identified in the literature is the inability of entities involved
in brownfields redevelopment to obtain insurance on the redevelopment project.
Absent such insurance, it has been argued, the redeveloper of a brownfield site
must bear the entire risk of the redevelopment project. The entire scope of
this risk, which may be unknown when a redevelopment project is initiated, may
have the effect of inhibiting the redevelopment of brownfields.
Tax incentives to encourage
the redevelopment of brownfields have been suggested as a needed incentive.
One suggestion has been to allow for the full deductibility of environmental
remediation costs in the year in which the costs were incurred. In addition,
other tax incentives (such as investment tax credits, property tax deferrals
and other "tax relief" forms of financial assistance) have been suggested.
4.4 Permitting Issues
An issue that has arisen consistently
in the literature is uncertainty regarding permit requirements. In essence,
what permits are required and from whom? Related to this appears to be uncertainty
regarding the possibility that site remediation requirements might be incorporated
into different permits.
Inconsistent federal, state
and local permitting requirements have been identified as an impediment to the
redevelopment of brownfields. In addition to this inconsistency, the simple
fact that there are requirements for multiple federal, state and local permits
may also discourage brownfields redevelopment.
Another issue that has been
identified in the literature as constituting an impediment to the redevelopment
of brownfields is "entrenched attitudes" among regulators. It has
been argued that there is need for regulatory flexibility in order to respond
to site-specific requirements.
4.5 Site Redevelopment Issues
Two primary issues relating
to site redevelopment that have been identified in the literature. The first
is a lack of available expertise (e.g., consultants, laboratories, contractors,
etc.). The second, inadequate or antiquated infrastructure, may be a more significant
impediment because it impacts the redevelopment of specific sites more directly.
4.6 Miscellaneous Issues
There are a number of additional
issues that have been identified in the literature which have the effect either
of discouraging the redevelopment of brownfields or of encouraging the development
of greenfields. A major issue is urban crime. It appears that interest in the
redevelopment of a specific brownfield and the crime rate for the area in which
the brownfield is located are inversely proportionate.
There have been a number of
instances in which the redevelopment of brownfields has been inhibited by public
opposition to redevelopment projects. This opposition appears to be based on
the simple fact that the interests of entities involved in the redevelopment
of brownfield sites and the interests of the communities within which such sites
are located do not always coincide.
The lack of a trained workforce
in redevelopment areas has been identified as another impediment to brownfields
redevelopment as has a limited public demand for redeveloped properties. Additional
impediments include inadequate housing for employees as well as unacceptable
health care and educational facilities.
Table of Contents
Subproblem 1: Brownfield/Greenfield Offsets
As discussed previously, it
has been suggested that the redevelopment of brownfields will have the effect
of reducing developmental pressures on greenfields. An important consideration
in determining such relationships is the fact that similar development projects
may require significantly more land if constructed in a greenfields area than
if constructed in a brownfields area. Such "areal differentials" are
addressed in this section.
The essential question is
whether similar development projects require more land if located in a greenfield
area than if located in a brownfield area. There are a number of reasons why
development of a greenfield could require more land. Land use requirements in
effect in many greenfield jurisdictions include such land-consuming provisions
as setback requirements, parking requirements, floor area ratios, lot coverage
or density limitations and minimum lot sizes.
5.1 An Example of Brownfield/Greenfield
Consider the following example:
A brownfield redevelopment project involving the restoration and continued use
of a commercial building located in an urban area. The exterior dimensions of
the building are 150' by 200' for a total of 30,000 square feet. The building
sits on one city block with sidewalks along three sides and an alley along the
back of the building. Because the city allowed the original developer to build
to the property lines, the total amount of land occupied by the building is
also approximately 30,000 square feet, or 0.68 acres.
5.1.1 Greenfield Area One
In greenfield area one, land
use regulations applicable to commercial developments require setbacks of 50'
from any main road, 25' from any side road and 10' from any alley. These setback
requirements would increase the amount of land required for the project from
30,000 square feet to 52,500 square feet, or 1.2 acres. This would yield a normalized
brownfield/greenfield offset ratio of 1:1.76.
5.1.2 Greenfield Area Two
Greenfield area two has the
same setback requirements as greenfield area one. The critical difference is
that unlike area one, greenfield area two does not permit parking facilities
to be constructed in the setback areas. The land use regulations in effect in
area two require commercial facilities to have one parking place for every 100
square feet of floor area. A 30,000 square foot facility, therefore, would be
required to have 300 parking places, each of which is required to be a minimum
of 10' by 18' (or 180 square feet). Fulfilling these regulatory requirements
would require an additional 54,000 square feet of land. In addition, commercial
facilities are required to have a minimum of one loading zone (measuring 20'
by 30' or 600 square feet) for every 10,000 square feet of floor area. The loading
zone requirement would add an additional 1,800 square feet to the amount of
land required. The result is that the minimum amount of land needed to construct
the same project in greenfield area two would increase to 108,300 square feet,
or 2.48 acres. This would yield a normalized brownfield/greenfield offset ratio
5.1.3 Greenfield Area Three
Greenfield area three does
not have setback requirements. Instead, the political leadership of area three
has enacted lot coverage limitations. The regulations provide that commercial
facilities located in the greenfield area may not cover more than 40% of any
given tract of land. The regulations define "lot coverage" to include
all buildings and parking facilities. The regulations also impose the same parking
requirements as greenfield area two. The amount of land that would be covered
by the building and the parking facilities is 85,800 square feet. Imposing a
40% lot coverage limitation would increase the total amount of land needed for
the project to 214,500 square feet, or 4.92 acres. This would yield a normalized
brownfield/greenfield offset ratio of 1:7.23.
5.1.4 Greenfield Area Four
The approach taken by greenfield
area four differs from the approach taken by the other three areas. In order
to preserve open space, the political leadership of greenfield area four has
enacted regulations mandating minimum lot sizes for different types of development
projects. For commercial projects, the minimum lot size is ten acres. This would
yield a normalized brownfield/greenfield offset ratio of 1:14.7.
5.1.5 Discussion of the
The amount of land required
for the brownfield redevelopment project was 0.68 acres. Because of the land
use requirements in effect in the four different jurisdictions, had the same
project been constructed in one of the four greenfield areas, the minimum amount
of land required would have ranged between 1.2 acres and ten acres. The normalized
brownfield/greenfield offset ratios would range from 1:1.76 to 1:14.7. In essence,
this means that every acre of brownfields redeveloped for commercial purposes
would have required a minimum of 1.76 acres in greenfield area one, 3.64 acres
in greenfield area two, 7.23 acres in greenfield area three and 14.7 acres in
greenfield area four.
5.2 Calculation of Brownfield/Greenfield
In order to convert the theoretical
areal differentials illustrated in the example into actual brownfields/greenfields
offsets, specific information about successful brownfield redevelopment projects
was required. This information was gathered during the phase two interviews.
Specific information included such variables as the nature of the redevelopment
project, lot dimensions, total square footage, outside dimensions, number of
floors, number of residents, number of employees, etc.
The phase two interviews were
conducted in each of the six study cities previously discussed. During these
site visits, the land use regulations for a minimum of three proximate greenfield
areas were obtained for each of the metropolitan study areas. The greenfield
areas identified as proximate to the study cities in these metropolitan areas
are noted in the following table.
and Proximate Greenfield Areas
St. Louis, Missouri(See Appendix B-10)
St. Louis MetropolitanStatistical Area
Franklin CountySt. Charles County
Lowell, Massachusetts(See Appendix B-7)
Boston-Worcester-Lawrence-Lowell-Brockton New EnglandCounty Metropolitan Area
Town of ChelmsfordTown of DracutTown of Tewksbury
Burlington, Vermont(See Appendix B-2)
Burlington New England County Metropolitan Area
Town of ColchesterTown of MiltonTown of Williston
Baltimore, Maryland(See Appendix B-1)
Baltimore Primary MetropolitanStatistical Area
Baltimore CountyCarroll CountyFrederick County
Richmond, Virginia(See Appendix B-8)
Richmond-PetersburgMetropolitan Statistical Area
Goochland CountyHanover CountyHenrico County
Sacramento, California(See Appendix B-9)
Sacramento PrimaryMetropolitan Statistical Area
Placer CountySacramento CountyYolo County
Once these land
use regulations and information regarding the characteristics of specific brownfield
redevelopment projects had been obtained, it was possible to calculate the minimum
amount of land that specific projects would have required if constructed in
any of the proximate greenfield areas. Three values (based on the land use regulations
in effect in the three proximate greenfield areas) were calculated for each
of the successful brownfield redevelopment projects. The calculation of three
sets of land use requirements for each redevelopment project enhanced the statistical
significance of the data by reducing the effect of anomalous values. As noted
previously, the calculated areal requirements were normalized and expressed
as a 1:x offset ratio.
It is important
to understand that the calculation of areal differentials was intended to approximate
the minimum amount of land that a brownfield redevelopment project would have
required had it been constructed in a greenfield area. Consequently, when it
was necessary to make an assumption in order to calculate areal requirements,
the assumption that minimized the amount of land required was the assumption
used, as indicated below.
Regarding Setback Requirements
jurisdictions had setback requirements that varied in terms of adjacent land
uses. For example, if the adjoining land use was commercial, the setback requirement
might be twenty-five feet. If the adjoining land use was residential, however,
the setback requirement might increase to fifty feet. The applicable setback
requirement was always assumed to be the minimum requirement.
Regarding Parking Requirements
All of the land
use regulations in effect in the greenfield jurisdictions included mandatory
parking requirements. As with the example previously discussed, these requirements
were based on such variables as total square footage (for commercial), total
number of employees (for manufacturing or industrial) or total residential units
(for multifamily residential).
The area calculated
as needed to meet the parking requirements was assumed to be the total area
needed for parking. As a result, the calculated parking area will always be
less than the actual amount of land needed for parking because aisles and access
ways between the parking places have not been included. To include the amount
of land needed for aisles and access ways would not have been the most conservative
assumption as the location and characteristics of such aisles and access ways
could only be determined in the context of a specific development project. In
addition, when calculating parking requirements, 90º parking was assumed
in all cases because such a configuration requires less land than angled parking
places. Again, this assumption was made because it was the most conservative
A further assumption
was that all parking would be constructed at ground level. The assumption was
based on the differential costs of parking structures. Average costs for ground
level parking range between $2,500 and $3,000 per space. Construction of a parking
structure, which would have reduced the amount of land needed for parking, would
also have increased costs significantly. The cost to construct a parking structure
ranges between $6,000 and $8,000 per parking space. The cost per space increases
to between $12,000 and $15,000 per space for construction of an underground
Regarding Density Requirements
The land use
regulations applicable in several of the greenfield jurisdictions allowed the
same development to be constructed in different zoning categories having different
density requirements. For example, construction of a single family home development
project might be authorized in three different residential zoning categories:
R-2 (a maximum density of two residences per acre), R-4 (maximum density of
four residences per acre) or R-10 (maximum density of ten residences per acre).
If a choice among such zoning categories was presented, the category allowing
the highest density development was selected.
Regarding Height Requirements
A number of the
brownfield redevelopment projects involved either the construction or renovation
of relatively tall buildings. Limitations in many of the greenfield areas, however,
precluded construction of buildings beyond a certain height. In such situations,
absent any other means by which the brownfield/greenfield offset might be calculated,
the amount of land needed for the brownfield redevelopment project was determined
by reducing the height and increasing the width (or length) of the building.
With regard to reducing building height, for example, the minimum amount of
land required for a 300' high rise hotel in a greenfield jurisdiction having
a 150' height limitation would be calculated as though two 150' towers were
With regard to
increasing the width (or length) of structures, the assumption was made that
the shortest appropriate structure would be constructed. For example, consider
the need to calculate the minimum land requirements for an eight story brownfield
redevelopment project. In a greenfield jurisdiction having a three story height
limitation, the redevelopment project could be constructed either as a longer
(or wider) two story buildings or as a smaller building containing two and three
story sections. Construction of a longer (or wider) two story building was the
selected alternative in most instances as this would minimize building costs.
Beyond a height of two stories, construction costs per square foot increase
substantially. This increase in cost is attributable to a number of factors
including increased foundation costs and additional expenditures on safety related
issues. Because the price of land in many greenfield jurisdictions is less than
the incremental costs of constructing a larger structure, it was assumed (when
confronting an applicable height limitation) that a larger, shorter building
would be constructed.
Regarding Buffer Zones and Landscaping
Most of the land
use regulations applicable in greenfield areas include requirements for such
things as buffer zones and landscaping. The location and areal extent of such
buffer zones and landscaping can only be determined in the context of a specific
development project. Consequently, the amount of land needed to fulfill these
requirements was not included in the calculations.
Differentials by Land Use Category
brownfield redevelopment projects were divided into three groups: (1) primarily
industrial developments, (2) primarily commercial developments and (3) primarily
residential developments. The normalized offset ratios for each of the three
categories are presented in the following table.
Brownfield/Greenfield Offset Ratios
for Industrial and Manufacturing Development,
Commercial Development and Residential Development
1:0.53 to 1:60.52
1:0.48 to 1:12.50
1:0.44 to 1:45.77
Confidence interval (95%):
Number of sites:
Number of samples:
The data contained in Table
2 indicate that the brownfield/greenfield offset ratio may be significant:
The overall mean for the three subcategories into which the data were divided (industrial development, commercial development and residentisl development) was 4.5. In essence, this means that every brownfield acre redeveloped would have required a minimum of 4.5 acres had the same project been located in a greenfield area.
Of the 142 samples (derived from 48 specific brownfield redevelopment projects) that were analyzed in the study, 108 (76.1%) would have required more land in a greenfield area than was actually used by the brownfield redevelopment project.
The total area of land used by all of the brownfield redevelopment projects was 142.7 acres. Had these same projects been constructed in a greenfield area, a minimum of 645.9 acres would have been required.
If for industrial purposes, the redevelopment of one acre of brownfields would have required 6.2 acres in a greenfield area (95% confidence interval: ± 5.4 acres). The total acreage actually used by the industrial development projects was 49.6 acres. Had these projects been located in a greenfield area, the minimum amount of land required for the projects would have been 309.1 acres.
If for commercial purposes, the redevelopment of one acre of brownfields would have required 2.4 acres in a greenfield area (95% confidence interval: ± 0.6 acres). The total acreage actually used by the commercial development projects was 58.3 acres. Had these projects been located in a greenfield area, the minimum amount of land required for the projects would have been 140 acres.
If for residential purposes, the redevelopment of one acre of brownfields would have required 5.6 acres in a greenfield area (95% confidence interval: ± 2.5 acres). The total acreage actually used by the residential development projects was 34.9 acres. Had these projects been located in a greenfield area, the minimum amount of land required for the projects would have been 194.5 acres.
The distribution of the data
support these conclusions:
With regard to industrial redevelopment projects, 19 of 29 samples (65.5%) had a brownfield/greenfield offset ratio of greater than one.
With regard to commercial redevelopment projects, 39 of 53 samples (73.6%) had a brownfield/greenfield offset ratio of greater than one.
With regard to residential redevelopment projects, 50 of 60 (83.3%) had a brownfield/greenfield offset ratio of greater than one.
Land use decisions are inherently
site-specific. This is reflected in the data contained in Table 4 in terms of
the wide range of values between the smallest and the largest offset ratios.
It is also reflected in the relative large standard deviations and the 95% confidence
Table of Contents
Subproblem 2: Induced Benefits
In general, metropolitan
areas of the United States have experienced economic decline throughout the
second half of the twentieth century. Both shifts in economic activity from
urban areas to suburban locations and inter-regional migration from the Northeast
and Midwest to the South and West have contributed to this decline. These demographic
shifts, along with the overall trend away from heavy industry and other types
of manufacturing, have left many older industrial areas idle, underutilized
or completely abandoned. Dramatic increases in crime and welfare dependence
are apparent in many of these areas.
In an effort
to remedy some of the problems associated with economic decline of cities, federal,
state and local governments are examining policies affecting urban areas. As
a part of these comprehensive efforts, they are examining barriers to and incentives
for redevelopment of brownfield sites and developing strategies to address identified
impediments. Information on the costs and benefits of redeveloping brownfield
sites is needed to set priorities and develop effective strategies that will
ensure the success of brownfield redevelopment projects.
The purpose of
this component of the present research project was to provide additional insights
into the nature of benefits that are induced by the redevelopment of brownfield
properties. While a number of researchers have examined economic benefits of
brownfields redevelopment, social and environmental benefits induced by brownfield
redevelopment have not been as thoroughly examined.
of Previous Work
literature review was performed to obtain information related to the determination
of community benefits of brownfields redevelopment efforts. The results of this
review indicated that much of the existing literature focuses on general impediments
to urban redevelopment opportunities and concerns of communities and developers
regarding brownfield site redevelopment, rather than focusing on determinations
of benefits to be received from such redevelopments. While many articles address
liability considerations or other impediments to brownfields redevelopment,
comparatively little has been written about measurement of benefits induced
by brownfields redevelopment efforts. The literature that does exist on brownfields
redevelopment-induced benefit analysis tends to focus on three basic areas of
community benefits: human health risk reduction, property value increases and
provision of services and open spaces. The research reported herein, however,
found that brownfields redevelopment may provide a much broader spectrum of
In addition to
the literature review mentioned above, the present research also included a
series of telephone interviews with experts in the area of economic redevelopment
cost/benefit analysis. These experts pointed out many potential benefits of
brownfields redevelopment. Brownfield projects are viewed by many as providing
major opportunities for revitalizing urban communities. Redevelopment of brownfield
sites may reduce health risks, create jobs, provide services, increase local
tax revenues and improve the overall livability of urban neighborhoods. Brownfield
site redevelopments tend to affect communities in different ways, depending
upon the nature of the land use (e.g., industrial, commercial, residential)
and the needs of the community. Left undeveloped, however, brownfield areas
remain unproductive, generate little or no economic benefits and are environmentally
and socially detrimental to the surrounding communities. On the other hand,
if impediments to redevelopment can be reduced, then the realization a wide
array of social, economic and human health benefits is likely to occur. Such
benefits may accrue both to the immediate community and adjacent areas as brownfield
sites are remediated and returned to productive use.
As an example,
a case study of brownfield site redevelopment in Trenton, New Jersey , indicated
that a variety of social, environmental and economic benefits are accruing from
the Trenton, New Jersey Brownfields Demonstration Pilot Program. Interviewees
emphasized that, in addition to benefits commonly associated with brownfields
redevelopment, such as urban sprawl reduction, traffic congestion curtailment
and reduction of air quality problems and other forms of environmental degradation,
less tangible social benefits also occur. These types of benefits include a
higher level of citizen awareness and sensitivity about individual and community
conditions, a sense of control and empowerment from being part of the decision
making process, reduced crime and restored safety and security, a sense of hope
and a sense of pride.
In other case
studies reviewed, the benefit of brownfields redevelopment that was most frequently
reported was that of job creation. In Louisville, interviewees explained that
job creation will benefit the community only if the jobs are provided specifically
to residents occupying the neighboring community. This may require job training
programs targeted at community residents. The creation of neighborhood-based
businesses could shorten commuting times for residents, making it easier for
them to hold down jobs and reducing child care burdens.
Reversal of neighborhood
deterioration was the second most frequently mentioned neighborhood benefit.
Improvements in the area, including reduced crime, surface cleanups, increased
property values and increased local tax revenues were mentioned as potential
benefits of brownfields redevelopment. These benefits enhance the ability of
local governmental entities to provide better schools, roads and libraries.
One respondent pointed out that tax revenues may be most beneficial to the community
if they are specifically earmarked for such purposes.
only a small fraction of interviewees mentioned improved environmental quality
and the associated reductions in health risks or environmental justice as major
benefits of brownfields redevelopment. Perhaps these issues were not emphasized
because they are such obvious benefits. On the other hand, residents may be
more concerned with other, more visible and immediate concerns such as crime,
heavy traffic and noise, than with the longer-term health effects of environmental
contamination. In addition, some interviewees indicated that the types of sites
that are being targeted for brownfield redevelopment in are not highly contaminated
and therefore do not pose high health risks that would be significantly reduced
if the sites were cleaned up.
of the literature review and interviews conducted as part of the research project
summarized herein, in addition to the identification of benefits induced by
brownfield redevelopment efforts, was the articulation of a framework for prioritizing
brownfield site redevelopment efforts based on benefits projected to be accrued.
As shown in Figure 2, the framework is intended to integrate economic, environmental
and social factors in a manner that may be helpful to guiding brownfield redevelopment
strategies in a way that achieves the multiple objectives of generating investment
in urban areas which ultimately provides increased tax revenues and jobs, reducing
human health and environmental risk and benefiting low income and minority populations
by revitalizing their neighborhoods.
Redevelopment Induced Benefit Framework
Those associated with benefiting low income & minority population
Priorities for Targeting Successful Brownfield Redevelopment
Those related to human health & environmental benefits
Those affecting the generation of business, tax revenues & jobs
This simple framework
may be helpful in precluding a failure to see "the forests for the trees"
when sifting through large numbers of urban properties to identify those which
have the greatest redevelopment potential and the greatest economic, environmental
and social benefits. As such, the framework may be a useful tool in setting
priorities for redevelopment projects, targeting economic development incentives
and programs and developing strategies for brownfield site redevelopment. An
important purpose for determining benefits induced by brownfields redevelopment
is to use such information to set priorities among the large numbers of brownfield
redevelopment opportunities that exist in most large urban jurisdictions. Information
on induced benefits can be applied usefully to EPA's six-step process for identifying
and evaluating brownfield sites that can be successfully redeveloped, as illustrated
in Table 5, below.
Approach to Brownfields Redevelopment Priority Setting
I. Target Geographic Areas
A. Mixed use areas with highly exposed, low income, minority populations.
B. Commercial/Industrial areas with large land tracts & significant job creation potential.
C. Waterfront/downtown areas that are attractive to businesses
II. Identify Brownfield Sites in Each Area
A. Use local knowledge & land use surveys
B. Contact local economic development offices
C. Coordinate with city urban planning activities
D. Use federal & state environmental databases
E. Use GIS to incorporate a variety of data sources
III. Characterize Brownfield Sites Based on Marketability
A. Low Marketability; public funding necessary. [Public sector takes the lead]
B. Marketable for specialized developers; could make use of alternative funding sources. [Public-private partnerships]
C. Highly Marketable; traditional sources of funding. [Private sector takes the lead]
IV. Screen Sites for High Potential Community Benefits [Discussed in following sections]
V. Evaluate Potential Impacts of Redevelopment Alternatives [Discussed in following sections]
VI. Develop Strategy for Brownfield Redevelopment Activities
A. Partnerships with multi-stakeholder groups to establish priorities for public funding efforts & an action plan.
B. Partnerships with multi-stakeholder groups to establish priorities for development projects.
C. Coordinate with development & environmental agencies to market sites, streamline development process & manage community involvement.
approach to priority setting was developed using information obtained from literature
reviews and interviews with a variety of people involved in brownfields redevelopment
activities. As illustrated in Table 6, the screening and impact evaluation processes
envisioned in Steps IV and V, as well as site and neighborhood characteristics
and attributes of the redevelopment plan itself, are factors to be considered
in evaluating potential benefits.
Factors to Consider in Evaluating Potential
Benefits of Redevelopment Alternatives
Type of Benefit
1. Reduced health risks
Evaluation of existing risks, based on contamination and exposures and reductions in those risks resulting from remediation and redevelopment.
Socio-demographic evaluation of the beneficiaries of redevelopment.
3. Prevention/Reduction of air pollution
Due to curbing urban sprawl; most significant as commercial and industrial redevelopment occurs, providing jobs for city residents.
4. Creation of green spaces
Applies to parks, open spaces and community gardens development.
1. Job creation and potential for higher incomes
Jobs created by the redevelopment may not benefit the local community if residents do not have the necessary education or training to fill these jobs.
2. Improve labor market efficiency
Increasing urban fill may provide more job opportunities to city residents, thereby reducing job search costs, labor market search costs and relocation costs.
3. Increased tax revenues
Due to returning property to productive use and increasing property values.
4. Spill-over economic effects
Redevelopment has the potential to improve neighborhood quality and overall business conditions in the area.
5. Reduced congestion, accidents and highway costs
Due to reduction in urban sprawl and commuting.
6. Prevent housing abandonment
Increasing the desirability to live in the city may result from urban fill. Commensurate benefits include avoiding expenses of new construction, preventing crime that often occurs in and around abandoned buildings and improving the aesthetics in the area.
1. Increase in easily accessible services
Applies to commercial development; many inner city neighborhoods do not have easy access to grocery stores or other necessities.
2. Affordable Housing
For residential development only.
3. Restored sense of control and neighborhood empowerment; renewed sense of hope and pride
These types of benefits are most likely to result when there is a high degree of community involvement in brownfield site cleanup and redevelopment planning.
4. Improved city services
Increase in tax revenues generated by redevelopment may enable the city to provide better public services (e.g., schools, transportation, recreation).
Improved appearance and overall neighborhood quality may result from all types of redevelopment projects, especially parks, open spaces and community gardens.
While this list
is more detailed than the screening criteria applied in previous steps, it would
be applied only to a subset of higher priority sites. Comparing potential impacts
of alternative site redevelopment projects will allow cities to identify those
sites likely to provide the greatest economic, environmental and social benefits.
Evaluating potential brownfield sites on the basis of the ability to provide
community benefits provides a sound basis for establishing priorities and tailoring
assistance so that brownfield site redevelopment efforts can proceed.
Table of Contents
Subproblems 3 and 4: Impediments and
Incentives to the Redevelopment of Brownfields
The results of
the phase one and phase two interviews were analyzed to isolate key variables
having the greatest influence on both public and private sector decisions to
redevelop brownfields. As noted earlier, the underlying assumption was that
specific factors identified during both phases of the interview process were,
in fact, key variables most influencing brownfield redevelopment decisions.
must be noted that land use decisions are inherently site-specific. As a result,
factors affecting decisions regarding the development or redevelopment of any
specific site may (or may not) arise with regard to the development or redevelopment
of any other site.
It must also
be remembered that issues relating to the redevelopment of brownfields are a
subset of a larger set of issues relating to economic development. According
to one of the interviewees, brownfields are "a part of a piece of a puzzle."
With regard to urban redevelopment, another interviewee noted that brownfields
are "the tail wagging the dog." In essence, there was general agreement
that the real issue was urban economic development and that the redevelopment
of brownfields was but one component of that development.
7.1 Issues of Special Concern
Despite the site-specific
nature of brownfields redevelopment decisions, there were five issues that arose
in all or nearly all of the study areas. These are issues that have a disproportionate
impact on the redevelopment of brownfields or the development of greenfields.
Because they are of overriding importance, these issues of special concern are
7.1.1 A "Market
With regard to
the relationship between the brownfields and greenfields, there was general
consensus that the redevelopment of brownfields and the development of greenfields
were not on a level playing field. There exists, according to one interviewee,
a "market mismatch" that makes it significantly less expensive to
develop greenfields. For developers, this "market mismatch" produces
both higher and quicker profits from the development of greenfields than from
the redevelopment of brownfields. As noted by one of the interviewees, "every
brownfield disincentive is a greenfield incentive." The inverse is true
There are almost
as many examples of economic incentives and disincentives that affect decisions
to redevelop brownfields as there were interviewees during this phase of the
study process. Everyone, it seemed, had an example of the economic imbalance
between brownfields redevelopment and greenfields development:
In Detroit it was the property tax rate. Within Detroit, the property tax rate is 70 mills per hundred dollars of valuation. In nearby suburban and rural areas (greenfield areas), the tax rate varies between 30 and 40 mills. To compound the problem, Detroit is confronted with the need to spend approximately $1.6 billion on facilities to handle combined sewer overflows in order to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act. In order to raise the funds necessary to comply with Clean Water Act requirements, it is likely that Detroit's property tax rate will have to be increased.
In St. Louis it was a one percent earning tax that is imposed on income earned within the City of St. Louis. A similar tax is not imposed by other local governments within the St. Louis Study Area. One interviewee noted that the one percent earnings tax was felt most by those individuals who had the highest incomes. With regard to the relocation of a corporation, this interviewee noted that the individuals who were making relocation decisions were also the individuals who would pay the most if they were forced to pay an earning tax. Was it any wonder, queried the interviewee, that corporations chose to locate elsewhere?
In Richmond it was telephone surcharges that are imposed by the city but not by suburban and rural jurisdictions within the Richmond Study Area. It is difficult to imagine a land use decision turning on something as relatively minor as telephone surcharges. As one interviewee noted, however, land use decisions are based on the cumulative effect of a multitude of relatively minor variables. This person concluded that something as minor as a telephone surcharge could be the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.
Perhaps the greatest single
impediment to the redevelopment of brownfields is crime. In one form or another,
this issue emerged in all of the study areas. Several of the interviewees noted
that crime rates were major factors when investment decisions are made. For
example, it was argued that the homicide rate in Richmond had the effect of
discouraging investments in brownfields redevelopment. In fact, through a combination
of public and private initiatives, Richmond was able to reduce the homicide
rate by 40% between 1997 and 1998. Nonetheless, as noted by one of the interviewees,
the homicide rate has created such a stigma that many potential investors not
only will not consider developments within the city but also do not wish even
to be associated with the city.
The influence of crime is
not limited to serious crimes. Vandalism, for example, was considered to be
a major issue in one of the study areas. The need for intensive site security
to prevent theft was a factor in a relocation decision in another of the study
areas. As noted by one of the interviewees, crime rates "make brownfield
sites look unattractive."
Even the perception that a
study area is a high crime area is sufficient to discourage investments in the
redevelopment of brownfields. In one study area, fights in an ethnically diverse
high school created the impression that the community was prone to violence.
This impression affected at least one brownfield redevelopment proposal adversely.
In more than one of the study areas, abandoned buildings were cited as creating
the perception that neighborhoods were unsafe. One of the interviewees noted
that funding for the removal of abandoned buildings was needed both to prepare
the site for redevelopment and to reduce both the actual crime rate and the
perceived threat of crime.
Several of the interviewees
argued that crime was not confined to brownfield areas, noting that greenfield
areas were not free from crime. Others contended that crime was just one of
several factors that had to be considered. Nonetheless, though the extent of
the problem varied among study areas, there seemed to be general agreement that
the perceived threat of crime was causing developers to favor the development
of greenfields over the redevelopment of brownfields.
A major issue that arose in
every study area was intergovernmental competition. This issue is perhaps second
only to crime in presenting a major impediment to the redevelopment of brownfields.
Much of the discussion relating
to the redevelopment of brownfields or the development of greenfields seems
to be based on the assumption that development is being forced on greenfield
areas. This assumption is incorrect. Many greenfield areas are pursuing development
with great vigor.
In the pursuit of development,
local governments in greenfield areas are offering a wide variety of financial
inducements to encourage the development of greenfields. As noted by the interviewees,
these inducements may include:
Property tax deferrals
Business or corporate earnings tax rebates
Sales tax deferrals or rebates
Reduced or eliminated fees for governmental services
Reduced or eliminated fees for required permits and permit studies
Simplified permit procedures
Waiver of permit requirements
Construction of infrastructure (including highway and rail access)
The result of this competition
for development is that the skewed playing field discussed above becomes even
more highly tilted toward the development of greenfields instead of the redevelopment
of brownfields. One of the interviewees characterized the situation as "corporate
welfare" that subsidized private sector decisions to relocate from an existing
location to a newly developed greenfield.
In essence, given the degree
of intergovernmental competition that was observed by all of the interviewees,
any decision to encourage the redevelopment of brownfields will have to include
financial inducements for developers. The list of potential inducements noted
above is illustrative, not exhaustive. Even provision of these inducements may
not be sufficient to motivate the redevelopment of brownfields. With regard
to developers considering a proposed retail area in St. Louis, for example,
one of the interviewees noted that "we can't bribe them enough to get them
to move into the city."
7.1.4 Assembly of Parcels of Land and Clearing of Title
The importance of this issue
has not been addressed adequately in the literature. In nearly every study area,
the issue of assembly of land parcels and clearing of title emerged as a major
impediment to brownfields redevelopment. Many of the core cities in the study
areas have thousands of small parcels of land that fall within the definition
of brownfields. In large measure, these are abandoned sites that are scattered
throughout the city. For example, St. Louis has acquired more than 11,000 small
parcels through tax foreclosure alone.
As noted by one interviewee,
a typical developer wants a minimum of five to ten acres of land to be available
before a project will be considered. Assembly of parcels of such a size in greenfield
areas presents no difficulties. Conversely, assembly of parcels of such a size
in brownfield areas is very difficult. An average city block, for example, is
only two to three acres. With thousands of small parcels scattered throughout
a city, assembly of land into five to ten acre tracts presents an enormous problem.
One solution to the problem
has been the use of eminent domain authority to assemble the scattered parcels
and other parcels (usually privately owned) into developable tracts. In many
areas, the use of eminent domain authority has encountered serious political
opposition. Even the use of such authority presupposes that the specific city
can afford to pay for the property taken by eminent domain. This is not a safe
presumption in most of the study areas.
An even more politically sensitive
issue has been the proposed use of eminent domain authority to acquire private
land as needed to allow the expansion of existing industries within the study
areas. The purpose of using public authority to acquire land for a private entity
has been to discourage the entity from relocating by facilitating expansion
at the entity's existing location.
In general, there was agreement
that eminent domain authority could (and should) be used to "quiet title"
to parcels of land that have been assembled into redevelopment tracts. Absent
clear title, the interviewees noted that funding for remediation of the site
might not be forthcoming nor would interest in site redevelopment. One of the
interviewees stated specifically that site redevelopment was being discouraged
by clouds on the titles to land that could have been redeveloped. Use of eminent
domain authority is one means by which these clouds might be eliminated.
7.1.5 Leadership Issues
This was not considered an
issue of special concern at the conclusion of the phase one interviews. It was
only after numerous phase two interviewees expressed the opinion that local
leadership was the key to a successful redevelopment project that the importance
of this issue emerged. One very successful brownfield redevelopment project,
for example, was able to proceed because the local fire department worked closely
with the developer to determine how best to provide fire protection and because
the local government assisted the developer in finding necessary remediation
Any number of the interviewees
stressed the fact that successful brownfields redevelopment efforts required
a strong commitment from the city within which the brownfields were located.
As noted by one interviewee, the city was successful in redeveloping brownfields
because it was blessed with aggressive leadership and a business retention strategy.
This strategy focused on assisting existing businesses to remain within the
city. As noted by the interviewee, existing business owners are more likely
to redevelop brownfields than are "outside" developers whose only
goal is a quick profit.
Aggressive community leadership
needs to include all elements of the community. One of the interviewees noted
the relationship between a strong labor union presence and both the creation
and restoration of brownfields. In the study area represented by the interviewee,
at least one industry had chosen to relocate elsewhere rather than accept the
demands of a local labor union. Not only did this have the effect of discouraging
brownfields redevelopment by reducing municipal tax revenues, it also had the
effect of creating a new brownfield when the former manufacturing facility was
abandoned. As noted by the interviewee, any future representation of the community
needs to include union representation so that potential developers are not dissuaded
by the union presence.
A number of related planning
issues emerged. Two of the interviewees suggested that the cities needed to
create an "industrial park atmosphere" in order to compete with suburban
developments. Others noted that the redevelopment of brownfields was creating
a "hopscotch" pattern of development because "the easy sites
are done first." The result was that individual redevelopment decisions
were driving land use plans rather than individual decisions being made within
the context of existing land use plans.
7.2 Information Issues
7.2.1 Available Information:
The literature review suggested
that brownfields redevelopment was being inhibited because information regarding
redevelopment opportunities was not available to potential developers. This
did not turn out to be a valid concern. Any number of information sources are
available to potential developers, many of whom have now developed (or are developing)
the expertise to utilize such information.
One suggestion was to maintain
a database of brownfields that were available for redevelopment. This suggestion
was rejected in a number of study areas because of the stigma associated with
the term "brownfields". The frequency with which interviewees spoke
of a "brownfields stigma" was somewhat surprising. As noted by one
interviewee: "We don't maintain a list of brownfields; we maintain a list
of economic development opportunities."
7.2.2 Available Information:
The literature review also
suggested that an absence of information regarding specific parcels of land
had the effect of inhibiting redevelopment. This emerged as an issue in a number
of study areas. Detroit and St. Louis, for example, have acquired thousands
of acres of land through abandonment and tax foreclosure. Very little (if any)
information is available about activities that occurred on specific sites. Phase
One environmental assessments have not been done. One interviewee noted that
it was difficult to attract a developer to a site if it was not possible to
tell the developer what had occurred there. Another noted that it was easier
to stimulate interest in small sites if preliminary environmental assessments
Though less significant, absence
of site-specific information was also an issue for privately owned brownfields.
One interviewee noted that property owners are very hesitant to release information
regarding their property because they fear EPA. This fear, according to the
same interviewee, is the primary reason why the Revolving Loan Fund that EPA
established for the remediation of brownfields has not been used extensively.
One suggestion was to use
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to integrate all available information
regarding specific sites irrespective of whether the sites were publicly or
privately owned. The proposed GIS would be based on an inventory of all sites
falling within the definition of brownfields. Information about the sites included
in the inventory would be included in the GIS. In one study area, much of this
information was already available but had never been organized at a single location
or in a single system. As a result, it was virtually impossible to make site-specific
information available to a potential developer. If funding becomes available
to develop the GIS completely, then issues of information availability should
7.3 Site Acquisition Issues
7.3.1 Sites to Acquire
A number of site acquisition
issues emerged. An initial issue was whether there were sites to acquire. Several
interviewees noted that there were private landowners within their jurisdictions
whose lands were classified as brownfields and who consistently had refused
to sell their property. There seemed to be a consensus that property owners
were refusing to sell brownfield properties because of fears of potential liability
In one study area, a number of railroads were faulted for "sitting on" their property rather than remediating it or selling it for redevelopment.
In another study area, a small number of corporations that owned tracts of land that were key to redevelopment initiatives were faulted for refusing to sell or redevelop their land.
In a third study area, the city itself was refusing to sell city owned land because of fears of potential liability should it be discovered that the site was contaminated.
In a fourth study area, this problem focused on the acquisition of federal property. Not only did the decision of whether or not to sell the property change frequently, but the price "goes up and down every day." As a result, the property has not been acquired by the city and an anticipated brownfield redevelopment project has not be initiated.
7.3.2 Value of Property
The literature notes that
the sale of brownfields may be difficult because the parties to the transaction
cannot agree on a purchase price. This problem has been seen in the study areas.
It appears that property owners consistently over value their properties. Property
owners do not want to deduct cleanup costs from the sale price. In addition,
structures on the property tend to aggravate the situation. From the property
owner's perspective, such structures should add to the price of the property.
From a developer's perspective, however, the need to remove a useless structure
prior to redevelopment of a site should have the effect of reducing the price
of the property. Finally, selling prices tend to increase dramatically once
interest in the property has been expressed. The result, as noted by several
of the interviewees, was that property owners had such unrealistic expectations
of the value of their properties that they refused to accept realistic offers
that reflected market prices.
Consequently, not only does
the price of land increase, but the possibility of financing a redevelopment
project decreases proportionately. As noted by one of the interviewees, land
prices are a key variable in determining the availability of private capital.
7.3.3 Purchaser Liability
The literature suggests that
potential purchasers of brownfields are dissuaded by ambiguities relating to
potential liability for site contamination. This does not appear to be a "real
world" issue. Many of the interviewees noted that developers understand
this issue and do what is necessary to protect themselves from potential liability.
It was noted that several successful brownfields redevelopment projects saw
both the purchaser and the seller of the property work together to resolve liability
issues. Concern was expressed, however, as to the legal effect of EPA "no
action" letters. Did such letters constitute a shield against future liability
for contamination at specific sites? With regard to at least one study area,
this uncertainty had the effect of discouraging brownfield redevelopment activities.
Legislation enacted recently in Michigan was offered as an example of one means
by which this uncertainty could be resolved. This legislation, which reflected
a "hold harmless" approach, precluded purchaser liability for preexisting
contamination. Unfortunately, the Michigan legislation is not consistent with
federal law, specifically the liability provisions CERCLA. Uncertainty remains
as to which approach is controlling in Michigan. Though EPA has assured the
state that it will not initiate an enforcement action regarding properties that
are covered by the Michigan legislation, this assurance was in the form of a
policy decision that could change as EPA leadership changes. The uncertainty
associated with this may be an impediment to the redevelopment of brownfields
7.4 Financing Issues
7.4.1 Tax Incentives
The Taxpayer Relief Act of
1997 (TRA) included a tax incentive that was designed to encourage the remediation
of contaminated properties. Under the TRA, remediation costs are fully deductible
in the year in which they are incurred if the property meets specified land
use, location and contamination requirements. There was general agreement among
the interviewees that the TRA tax incentives were not being utilized.
One interviewee attributed
this to developer misunderstanding of the tax incentives. Other interviewees
disagreed, with several noting that the tax incentives were insignificant. As
stated by one of the phase two interviewees, twenty to thirty thousand dollars
in tax credits "is not worth screwing around with."
Another interviewee noted
that developers are much more interested in "turning the property as quickly
as possible" rather than in "expensing cleanup costs". Still
other interviewees noted that the TRA tax incentives were not being used because
of cumbersome procedural requirements such as requiring local legislation (usually
a local ordinance) that allowed the tax credits. One of the phase two interviewees
noted that the tax credits did not justify the amount of work (and related costs)
that were needed to obtain them. In terms of procedural requirements, this interviewee
suggested that a "sliding scale" of requirements be developed with
procedural requirements to be determined by the size of specific redevelopment
Other types of tax incentives
were suggested. Several of the interviewees argued for increased Tax Increment
Financing authority. Such authority is needed not only to clean up a site but
to prepare it for redevelopment (e.g., to remove existing structures, to rehabilitate
infrastructure, etc.) Other interviewees argued in favor of an "Enterprise
Zone" approach to tax credits for brownfields redevelopment. Two of the
interviewees from Massachusetts noted a state program under which local communities
were empowered to provide tax incentives based on a percentage of value added
by a redevelopment project. The definition of "value added" includes
the costs of remediation.
Tax incentives similar to
those afforded historic preservation projects were advocated as were business
tax credits for investments in the redevelopment of brownfields. One interviewee
argued that such tax incentives needed to be transferable if they were to be
effective. This appears to be a reasonable approach to stimulating investment
in brownfields redevelopment.
7.4.2 Financial Assistance
One of the phase two interviewees
noted the critical importance of access to capital. As an alternative to tax
incentives, this interviewee suggested that a program be developed to "backstop"
the developer. A program similar to the federally-insured student loan program
was suggested. The goal would be to provide the developer with a surety (or
the equivalent) in order to make private capital available to the developer.
Comparing tax credits with access to capital, this developer noted that "tax
credits are icing on the cake as opposed to the flour that makes the cake."
The possibility of a loan guarantee program was raised by another interviewee
who suggested that such a program would be an inexpensive means by which lending
institutions might be encouraged to finance brownfields redevelopment.
Whether lending institutions
would do so, however, is a separate question. One interviewee noted that the
present economy is so strong that "banks don't want to mess with brownfields."
Another noted that the robust economy was driving the development of greenfields
which are perceived as being "easier" to develop.
A variety of other tax incentives
and other forms of financial assistance were identified. For example, legislation
enacted in Maryland provides for the incremental increase of property taxes
if property values are increased as a result of redevelopment activities. Several
of the interviewees, noting that CERCLA provides funding for site assessment
but not for cleanup, argued for "site preparation" or cleanup grants.
It was felt that such grants were needed to allow cities to make brownfields
as attractive to developers as greenfields. The comments of one interviewee
are probative: "Tax incentives are good, clean ground is better."
7.4.3 Lender Liability
An issue related to purchaser
liability is the potential liability of financial institutions. The literature
suggests that such institutions are hesitant to finance brownfield redevelopment
projects because of concern that they may become liable for remediation costs
if they are forced to foreclose on the property that is being redeveloped. This
no longer appears to be a serious problem. A number of the interviewees noted
that financial institutions are now sufficiently experienced to know how to
handle issues relating to lender liability. Others noted that recent changes
in federal law have had the effect of significantly limiting potential lender
One interviewee argued that
the issue of "lender liability" was a "red herring" issue.
Lending institutions do not want to finance brownfields redevelopment, this
interviewee argued, not because of potential liability but because the property
to be redeveloped had little collateral value. As a result, capital was not
made available for redevelopment initiatives.
7.4.4 Availability of Insurance
The literature suggests that
the inability of developers to obtain insurance for brownfield redevelopment
activities may have the effect of inhibiting such activities. This does not
appear to be a valid concern. Several interviewees noted that insurance was
available from a number of different sources. However, one interviewee did note
that inexperienced developers may not know of the full range of insurance coverage
that is available.
7.5 Permitting Issues
7.5.1 Existing Permit Requirements
The literature suggests that
uncertainty regarding permit requirements is an impediment to the redevelopment
of brownfields. Fortunately, this does not appear to be the case. As noted by
one of the interviewees, the more sophisticated the developer, the less permit
requirements present a problem. In fact, specific programs of assistance had
been implemented in each of the study areas to assist developers in fulfilling
the variety of federal and state statutory and regulatory requirements that
may be applicable to brownfields redevelopment:
Detroit has developed a "Toolbox" to equip a potential developer with the tools needed for fulfill the statutory and regulatory requirements.
Houston has adopted a "partnership" approach under which the developer and representatives of those agencies having jurisdiction over different aspects of the development are brought together early in the process ("getting people to the table") to address permitting requirements.
California has implemented a "one-stop shop" approach under which one state agency is designated a lead agency and is authorized to facilitate all permitting requirements.
The one area in which uncertainty
regarding permit requirements did become apparent related to local land use
control, specifically zoning requirements and building permits. The requirements
of local zoning ordinances and related building codes were described as impediments
to brownfields redevelopment in several of the study areas.
A related issue was described
by one of the interviewees as the "regulatory burden" that must be
borne by a developer. According to this interviewee, the total number of federal,
state and local permits and approvals that are required for a redevelopment
project has the effect of discouraging the redevelopment of brownfields and
encouraging the development of greenfields. Another noted that the total number
and cost of permits required for a brownfields redevelopment project had the
effect of increasing transaction costs which had the perverse effect of discouraging
the redevelopment of brownfields. A suggested remedy for this problem was to
consolidate different state and local permit requirements. At the local level,
however, there may be significant opposition to such consolidation because it
could be viewed as a surrendering of local control.
One of the phase two interviewees
noted that the issue was not the burden imposed by different permitting requirements
but instead was the delay and uncertainty inherent in the permitting process.
The issuance or denial of permits, this interviewee noted, needed to be processed
expeditiously and delivered on time. The interviewee also noted that private
developers cannot bear the risk of regulatory agency delays and that this works
against potential public-private partnerships. As this interviewee concluded,
"uncertainty defeats the program."
7.5.2 New Permit Requirements
An issue that may affect the
redevelopment of brownfields is the increasing stringency of permit requirements
under the Clean Air Act (CAA). Many brownfields are located in nonattainment
areas. The more severe the air quality problems of the nonattainment area, the
more stringent the permitting requirements. Recently, EPA announced more stringent
control on the emission of both ozone precursors and particulate matter. One
of the interviewees argued that these requirements would increase the regulatory
burden borne by brownfield redevelopers. Similar requirements may not be applicable
to the development of greenfields located within the same study area but not
within the CAA nonattainment area.
7.5.3 Remediation Requirements
The literature suggests both
the possibility that remediation requirements might be incorporated into different
permits and that this possibility has the effect of discouraging the redevelopment
of brownfields. Fortunately, this was not considered to be an issue in any of
the ten study areas. As one of the interviewees noted, should this issue arise,
it could always be resolved through negotiations with the permitting agency.
7.5.4 Inconsistent Requirements
Inconsistent federal, state
and local permitting requirements were identified in the literature as an impediment
to the redevelopment of brownfields. Though this issue was identified in several
of the study areas, it usually reflected the requirements of specific sites,
not a systemic inconsistency. At one site, for example, federal and state standards
for the cleanup of waste PCBs were not consistent. At another site, there was
confusion regarding the requirements of a permit required under § 404 of
the Clean Water Act.
One context in which inconsistent
requirements was likely to arise was in the area of risk assessment. Two of
the interviewees noted that public health agencies and environmental quality
agencies utilized different risk assessment standards.
With regard to risk assessment
standards, another of the interviewees raised the "how clean is clean"
question in the context of an acceptable range of risks. This interviewee argued
that better risk assessment models are needed that are easier to use, scientifically
credible and acceptable to EPA for use in health assessments. The interviewee
noted that a better definition of acceptable risk was needed, specifically arguing
that a "risk range" of 10-4 to 10-6 was both too broad and too uncertain.
An alternative, advocated by this interviewee, was to determine land uses in
terms of acceptable levels of risk. For example, if economically feasible remediation
was able to reduce the risk level only to 10-4, then the land could be used
only for purposes that did not involve human contact. The Food Quality Protection
Act was offered as a model of such a standard.
With regard to inconsistent
federal and state standards, several of the interviewees argued that cleanup
standards should be set based on the use to which the property was to be put.
This issue, which has generated significant political opposition, has arisen
most recently in the context of the CERCLA reauthorization process.
7.5.5 Regulatory Flexibility
The literature identified
"entrenched attitudes" among regulators as increasing the regulatory
burden that must be borne by developers and, as a result, discouraging the redevelopment
of brownfields. With very few exceptions, this issue did not arise in the study
One exception noted by several
of the interviewees was the fulfillment of statutory requirements. In essence,
a regulator could not deviate from statutory requirements in the interest of
regulatory flexibility. To do so was to invite litigation that could delay (and
possibly preclude) a redevelopment project.
Another exception relates
to EPA. Two of the interviewees had harsh words for EPA. They were offended
by the "parental" attitude that EPA employees displayed toward local
communities. Conversely, several of the interviewees had particular praise for
EPA. The difference appears to be the EPA region within which the study areas
One of the most telling comments
focused on the apathy toward brownfield redevelopment projects that was expressed
by a state agency. The interviewee's words are of note: This agency "never
brought hope to the table." The idea of bringing hope to the table, of
being both goal oriented and willing to work to overcome obstacles, is perhaps
the most critical component of regulatory flexibility. In addition to EPA, several
state agencies were praised for their ability and willingness to "get the
7.6 Site Redevelopment
7.6.1 Availability of Expertise
The literature suggests that
a lack of available expertise (e.g., consultants, laboratories, contractors,
etc.) has had the effect of impeding the redevelopment of brownfields. Once
again, this was an issue that did not arise in any of the study areas. As noted
by several of the interviewees, the availability of expertise is a function
of the willingness of developers to pay for such services. With the exception
of costs associated with site remediation, the cost of expertise should not
be significantly greater for the redevelopment of brownfields than for the development
of greenfields. The costs associated with site remediation, however, may be
7.6.2 Inadequate or Antiquated
This issue arose in virtually
every study area but it was always a site-specific issue. In some cities, specifically
Detroit and Richmond, the availability of existing infrastructure was perceived
as a benefit that should encourage brownfields redevelopment. In other cities,
the inadequacy of the existing infrastructure was viewed as a major barrier
to the redevelopment of brownfields. With regard to commercial and industrial
redevelopment, for example, lack of highway and rail access was identified as
a major infrastructure inadequacy.
Several of the interviewees
noted that infrastructure may become inadequate as land use changes. Water and
systems that were designed for a residential population, for example, may be
inadequate to accommodate commercial and industrial requirements. One of the
interviewees noted that this is a general urban development issue, not a specific
brownfields issue. Another interviewee noted that infrastructure upgrades may
be necessary in order to attract private capital.
7.6.3 Limited Demand
The literature suggests that
the demand for redeveloped properties may be limited and that this limited demand
has the effect of discouraging the redevelopment of brownfields. While this
may be true on a site-specific basis, the general consensus among the interviewees
was that there was significant demand for redeveloped properties. Land use restrictions
in Vermont, for example, virtually mandate the reuse of land. Similar demands
were seen in California and Michigan. Based on the comments of the interviewees,
it does not appear that a lack of demand is inhibiting the redevelopment of
7.6.4 Workforce Issues
An interesting refrain emerged
during the interview process. At one point during the interviews, virtually
everyone interviewed noted that their community was having difficulty finding
and keeping skilled workers. The need for a trained workforce is not an issue
that is limited to the redevelopment of brownfields. It is a part of a larger
economic development problem. Given a mobile workforce and a booming economy,
retaining trained personnel has become a major corporate issue.
One aspect of this issue is
worthy of note. A California entity involved in the redevelopment of brownfields
has entered into a partnership agreement with a local trade school. The purpose
of the agreement is to utilize brownfield redevelopment projects as a means
of training laborers. This training is one component of an established "welfare
to work" program.
Several of the interviewees
noted the general perception that skilled labor is located in the suburbs and
that industries will choose to locate in the suburbs to have greater access
to this skilled labor pool. Two other interviewees challenged these assumptions,
arguing that the suburban labor pool was no more skilled or unskilled that the
urban labor pool. One of the interviewees, however, noted a recent relocation
decision by a "high tech" company. This company, the interviewee noted,
chose not to relocate to a brownfields redevelopment area because it felt that
it could not attract employees for "high tech" jobs if it relocated
to such an area.
As noted, the truth of the
perceptions that the skilled labor pool is located in the suburbs and that these
employees cannot be attracted to a brownfields redevelopment area is open to
question. The reality, at least with regard to one relocation decision, is that
these perceptions appear to be guiding relocation decisions.
7.7 Miscellaneous Issues
7.7.1 Housing Issues
One question that arose in
the literature was whether inadequate employee housing in brownfield redevelopment
areas had the effect of discouraging redevelopment projects. Though most of
the interviewees dismissed this concern, it did arise in two of the study areas.
As noted above, one of the interviewees described a situation where a "high
tech" firm chose not to locate in a brownfields redevelopment area because
it did not feel that it could attract employees to the area. The adequacy of
housing was one of the issues that the firm considered in making its relocation
decision. In another study area, the inadequacy of middle income housing is
recognized as a limiting factor on brownfields redevelopment.
7.7.2 Education Issues
As with housing, the adequacy
of educational facilities for the children of employees was an issue noted in
the literature and dismissed by most of the interviewees primarily because of
their perception that employees are not obligated to live in a brownfields redevelopment
area. Given the mobility of most employees, it is possible for them to work
in a brownfields redevelopment area and live in an area with adequate educational
opportunities for their children. The one study area where inadequate educational
facilities was seen as impeding the redevelopment of brownfields was St. Louis.
One of the interviewees stated the problem succinctly: "People don't want
to live in the city because the schools are so bad."
7.7.3 Health Care Issues
Review of the literature also
suggested that inadequate health care facilities would have the effect of discouraging
brownfields redevelopment. This issue was dismissed by all of the interviewees
for two reasons. First, health care facilities within the study area were considered
to be adequate. Second, the mobility of the workforce allowed access to health
care facilities throughout the study area, not just in the brownfields redevelopment
7.7.4 Public Opposition
Somewhat surprisingly, the
interviewees offered a number of examples of public opposition to brownfields
redevelopment projects that lead to termination of the projects. Several reasons
for public opposition to brownfields redevelopment projects were cited:
Change in character of the neighborhood was likely to generate opposition to redevelopment projects. This was especially prevalent if there was a public perception that the proposed redevelopment project was have an adverse effect on property values.
Related to this has been community opposition to the types of redevelopment projects that have been proposed. One of the interviewees noted that a proposed industrial facility had been opposed because the community in which it was to be located wanted a shopping mall instead.
The "politics of race" and environmental justice issues also have resulted in opposition to brownfields redevelopment projects. In one instance, a proposed redevelopment project would have resulted in the construction of high density, low income housing. Given population trends in the study area, the new residents of the housing were likely to have an ethnic background different from existing residents of the area. As a result, the proposed redevelopment project generated significant community opposition.
One of the interviewees noted opposition to a proposed redevelopment project because of the "historic" nature of the building that was going to be razed to allow the project to proceed.
Increased traffic levels, especially traffic involving trucks and heavy equipment moving through residential neighborhoods during the construction phase of the redevelopment project, have resulted in community opposition to redevelopment projects. One of the interviewees described traffic as the "hot button" issue for brownfields redevelopment.
It should be noted that brownfields
redevelopment projects usually have substantial community support. This is especially
true if the community has been involved in planning for the redevelopment project.
As noted by one of the interviewees, the greater the community involvement,
the less likely that a specific project will be opposed by the community. This
may be of critical importance given the observation of another of the interviewees
that virtually any community opposition will have the effect of driving away
developers and precluding brownfields redevelopment. In at least one of the
study areas, however, community politics were characterized by a great deal
of "infighting", the result of which was opposition by one group to
virtually anything proposed by another group. In such a situation, it is highly
unlikely that brownfields redevelopment projects will be initiated.
7.7.5 Governmental Corruption
This issue arose in more than
one of the study areas. In order to obtain needed permits, approvals or financial
assistance, there was an expectation that developers would "contribute"
to the campaigns of different elected officials. As noted by one of the interviewees,
these "contributions" were expected to be in cash and were passed
"under the table."
In essence, it appears that
the transaction costs for a brownfield redevelopment project in certain of the
study areas must include appropriate bribes for elected officials and their
progeny. Irrespective of either propriety or legality, such financial inducements
increase the transaction costs associated with brownfields redevelopment. As
discussed above, given a choice between brownfields redevelopment and greenfields
development, if redevelopment of the brownfields site is more expensive, it
is unlikely that it will be the chosen alternative. This is especially a concern
in study areas where greenfield governmental entities are providing substantial
financial inducements to encourage developers to pursue greenfield development.
An anomalous situation appears to have developed in which developers expect
to be paid to facilitate the development of greenfields and elected officials
expected to be paid to facilitate the redevelopment of brownfields. Given the
willingness of local governments to provide financial inducements to developers,
it is not surprising that brownfields are not being redeveloped.
7.7.6 Federal Agency Policies
Any number of federal agency
policies were cited by the interviewees as having an adverse effect on the redevelopment
of brownfields. Fortunately, virtually all of these effects arose on a site-specific
basis. Department of Transportation policies that favored the construction of
new roadways over the maintenance or expansion of existing roadways were identified
as policies that favored the development of greenfields over the redevelopment
of brownfield. In two of the study areas, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps)
flood control policies affected brownfields redevelopment adversely. In one
instance it was the refusal of the Corps to provide flood protection. The other
instance focused on the Corps cost sharing policies for the construction of
flood control structures.
7.7.7 Relocation Preferences
Finally, the issue of relocation
preferences needs to be addressed. As noted previously, there is a general perception
that skilled workers prefer to live in suburban or rural (greenfield) areas.
A number of the interviewees noted that the same is true for senior corporate
officers. One indicated that corporate relocation decisions are driven by "where
the CEO wants to live." Others noted that the "nicer" environment
of the suburbs may have been the basis for decisions to relocate to those areas
rather than to redevelop brownfield areas.
Another of the interviews
indicated that corporations are likely to relocate to areas where there are
other corporations. This interviewee offered three reasons for this pattern
of behavior: First, the experience of other corporations allows the relocating
corporation to "learn the neighborhood" quickly. Second, there is
a perception that industrial park areas are safer. Third, there are fewer political
conflicts that have to be resolved prior to the relocation decision. The result
is that it is much more likely that corporations making relocation decisions
will chose to develop a greenfield than to redevelop a brownfield.
Table of Contents
Summary and Conclusions
EPA's Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative represents an innovative approach to environmental protection while bringing the focus of that protection directly to communities. It has spurred environmental cleanup, reduced neighborhood blight, generated tax revenues, and created jobs and in so doing it has helped to stabilize and enrich communities.
Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Testimony before the Committee on
Environment and Public Works
4 March 1997
The primary issue addressed in this present research project was the relationship between brownfields and greenfields. Two critical questions were addressed. First, to what extent will developmental pressures on previously undeveloped properties be reduced by the redevelopment of brownfields? Second, what are the critical factors that most influence public and private land use decisions either to redevelop brownfields or to develop greenfields? Answers to these questions can be summarized as follows.
8.1 Areal Differentials
Based on a total of 142 samples
derived from 48 brownfield redevelopment projects, it is reasonable to conclude
that such redevelopment projects consistently would have required more land
if constructed in a greenfield area and, in many instances, would have required
significantly more land. An industrial redevelopment project utilizing one acre
of brownfields would have required an average of 6.2 acres if it had been developed
in a greenfield area. A residential redevelopment project utilizing one acre
of brownfields would have required an average of 5.6 acres if it had been developed
in a greenfield area. A commercial redevelopment project utilizing one acre
of brownfields would have required 2.4 acres of if it had been developed in
a greenfield area. Redevelopment of brownfields should reduce developmental
pressures on greenfields proportionate to these average offsets.
8.2 Internet-based Survey
The primary purposes of the
Internet-based survey were to confirm both the areal differentials (discussed
in section 7.2, supra) and the identification and weighing of critical factors
(discussed in section 7.4, infra). Unfortunately, as discussed herein, the survey
did not produce meaningful results.
Respondents to the survey
expressed a great deal of interest in the present research project. In fact,
most of the respondents either asked to be added to the project mailing list
or requested copies of the final report. Despite this level of interest and
enthusiasm, however, none of the respondents was able to offer confirmation
as to either the areal differentials or the identification and weighting of
the critical factors.
8.3 Considerations Regarding
One issue emerged during the
interview process that appears to be a major factor in determining the brownfield/greenfield
relationship. All of the individuals interviewed during phase two of the interview
process were involved in specific brownfield redevelopment projects. Of those
individuals, only two considered the alternative of locating their business
activities in a greenfield area. In one instance, a planned relocation to a
greenfield area was abandoned for financial reasons. In the other instance,
the commercial square footage that could be obtained through the redevelopment
of a brownfield structure could not be obtained at the same cost through the
construction of a new structure in a greenfield area.
Apart from these two examples,
plus the aforementioned commercial developers who would locate their operations
wherever they could obtain market share, those individuals who were involved
in the redevelopment of brownfields were not also involved in the development
of greenfields. Additional interviews have suggested that the converse is also
true, that individuals involved in the development of greenfields are not also
involved in the redevelopment of brownfields. A major factor influencing the
brownfield/greenfield relationship, therefore, appears to be the conflicting
"corporate cultures" of brownfield redevelopers and greenfield developers.
There is relatively little communication between the two groups. Each continues
to do what it has done with little consideration of alternatives. For example,
in the context of a discussion regarding the redevelopment of urban brownfields
as an alternative to the development of suburban greenfields, one greenfield
developer commented: "I don't even know who to call in the city."
8.4 Critical Factors Affecting
The issues that were identified
by the interviewees as either inhibiting the redevelopment of brownfields or
encouraging the development of greenfields present substantial (though not insurmountable)
barriers. This is particularly true regarding the five issues of special concern:
The need for strong local leadership, the "market mismatch" (and the
resulting economic incentives to develop greenfields), crime (both actual and
perceived), the competition between local governments to attract development
and the assembly of parcels of land into developable tracts.
These are the critical factors
affecting brownfield redevelopment decisions. The comparative importance of
these factors varied both among the individuals interviewed and between the
study areas. This variability appears to have been caused by site-specific conditions.
As a result, it was not possible to determine with any confidence the relative
weights of the critical factors.
Taken individually, all of
the issues identified by the interviewees as either inhibiting the redevelopment
of brownfields or as encouraging the development of greenfields are capable
of resolution. Unfortunately, these issues may not be taken individually. Because
of their close interrelationship, the issues must be addressed collectively.
The need to confront the interrelationships that have emerged over time, in
essence to address the "ecology" of the issues, makes any realistic
resolution highly problematic.
With regard to intergovernmental
competition, for example, the most fundamental issue confronting the redevelopment
of brownfields may be the structure and function of government in the United
States. The federal government is a government of limited powers that cannot
compel the states to do anything. The most that the federal government can do
is to offer financial incentives to encourage state compliance with federal
policies. A similar pattern can be seen in many states, especially "home
rule" states in which there is substantial protection for local autonomy.
In these states, the authority of the state over state political subdivisions
is limited. As was observed in many of the study areas, if a political subdivision
located in a greenfield area chooses to encourage development, there is relatively
little that either the state or the federal government can do about it. Such
local decisions are the outcome of a political process in which greed and stupidity
appear to be the controlling factors. If the conversion of greenfields reflects
any single human shortcoming it is an apparent willingness to seek short-term
gains irrespective of long-term costs.
There are as many examples
of these interrelationships as there are observers. For instance, there are
many more economic incentives to develop greenfields than there are to redevelop
brownfields. As noted by several of the interviewees, the developers of greenfields
never pay the full cost of development. With regard to the redevelopment of
brownfields, however, the developer is expected to pay not only the full cost
of development but also to assist in the resolution of social problems resulting
from years of urban neglect.
8.5 Statutory and Regulatory
A number of statutory and
regulatory barriers were identified during the interview process. Somewhat surprisingly,
the "real world" barriers were not generally the barriers that had
been identified during the literature review.
The best example is CERCLA
liability. The literature suggested that this liability was a major barrier
to the redevelopment of brownfields. As noted above, however, there was general
agreement among those interviewed that the liability provisions of CERCLA did
not pose a barrier to brownfields redevelopment.
With regard to CERCLA liability,
however, the legal status of EPA "no action" letters did arise as
a potential barrier. The extent to which such letters relieve both developers
and financial institutions of liability is uncertain. With regard to specific
sites, such uncertainty may have the effect of inhibiting redevelopment of a
The greatest single barrier
noted throughout the interview process, which relates to the "market mismatch"
noted in section 8.4, is access to capital. Both public and private funding
is needed to correct this mismatch. Site assessments need to be conducted and
needed remediation activities need to proceed. Tracts of land need to be assembled
into parcels of sufficient size to facilitate development and title questions
regarding these parcels need to be resolved. These are conditions precedent
to the redevelopment of brownfields that can require substantial financial resources.
Numerous suggestions were
offered as ways of providing access to capital. Expansion of both Tax Increment
Financing authority and Enterprise Zone tax credits could provide such access.
One of the interviewees noted that transferable tax credits could have the effect
of attracting even more capital to the redevelopment activities generating the
Other barriers to the redevelopment
of brownfields that were identified during the interview process focused on
the policies of both the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers (COE). DOT policies were criticized for favoring the
construction of new roadways over the reconstruction or rehabilitation of existing
roadways. COE flood control policies were criticized for two reasons. The first
related to the provision of flood control to different areas of a metropolitan
area. The area in question had been inundated by a prior flood. When the COE
declined to construct new flood control facilities, rehabilitation of the area
became an impossibility. The second area of criticism related to the COE cost
sharing policies. At issue was whether a metropolitan area that was struggling
to find sufficient resources to redevelop a brownfield site should also have
to pay the requisite cost share in order to protect the site from flooding.
8.6 Statutory and Regulatory
Just as many of the perceived
barriers to the redevelopment of brownfields did not turn out to be barriers,
one of the primary incentives to brownfields redevelopment did not turn out
to be an incentive. Specifically, the tax incentives provided in the Taxpayer
Relief Act of 1997 have not been utilized. Very few of the individuals who were
interviewed during the interview process utilized these tax credits.
With regard to taxes, however,
there is one incentive that could be offered under federal law that could have
the effect of controlling the governmental competition issue discussed above.
This would be to amend the Internal Revenue Code to require developers to declare
as income any and all inducements they received to develop in a greenfields
area. These inducements would have to be declared in their entirety for the
year in which they were received. There is nothing to prevent a state political
subdivision from deferring property taxes for twenty years in order to attract
development to that political subdivision. Likewise, there is nothing to prevent
the Congress from requiring twenty years of state tax credits to be considered
as income to the developers for the year in which the credits were received.
Additional tax incentives
were identified during the interview process. Tax incentives available for the
preservation and restoration of historic properties were suggested as a model
for a similar program applicable to brownfields. The federal student loan program
was also offered as a model of a means by which the federal government could
"backstop" developers by acting, in essence, as a surety. Having such
guarantees could make additional capital available.
In terms of incentives for
the development of greenfields, the lending policies of the Small Business Administration
(SBA) have to be considered. Though these policies were not identified during
the interview process, they have been the subject of recent litigation alleging
that the SBA has not considered the full environmental impact of its policies.
The allegations are based, in part, on the extent to which urban sprawl had
been facilitated by SBA loans.
In the final analysis, there
is neither a single barrier to be removed nor a single incentive to be provided
that will have the effect of reversing decades of urban decline. The demands
are too great, the task too ominous. Removing barriers and providing incentives,
however, are critical first steps in the process of urban renewal and revitalization.
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