Once upon a time, if you walked by an abandoned building, you would have kept on walking. Today, thanks to new technology and brownfield redevelopment specialists, that old abandoned building can become a new and profitable home for your business.
New life for old buildings is the concept behind brownfield redevelopment, and it has proven very profitable for companies that have done it correctly. Brownfields are abandoned or underutilized buildings that the owners cannot afford to refurbish or clean up. Many of these old structures contain contaminants; some even house underground gas tanks, while others have low levels of hazardous waste. Yet they can become viable properties once again. By using one of these properties, you can do the following:
- Better use the land in a more productive manner that will better serve the environment
- Create new jobs
- Increase area property values
- Eliminate the need for a typically long and environmentally unsafe building process
- Eliminate dangerous, potentially unsafe, and often unsightly structures
Before a brownfield can be cleaned up and revitalized, environmental studies and testing need to occur. Thanks to increasingly sophisticated technology, this has become an easier task than in the past, allowing more business owners to seriously consider using these buildings.
However, technology notwithstanding, there can be some difficulties getting such a project started. “A lot of times finding the person who owns the property can be difficult and there may be cloudy titles, judgments, and foreclosures. You’ll need to deal with the third parties to clear the title,” explains Robert Colangelo, CEO of the National Brownfield Association and publisher of the bimonthly publication Brownfield News.
To encourage such brownfield redevelopment, both federal and state programs have been developed. “Programs help with financial incentives, liability relief, and technical assistance at both the state and federal levels,” adds Colangelo, who notes that developing contaminated sites is probably the highest level of recycling because it’s recycling the earth.
It is estimated that currently there are anywhere from 400,000 to 1 million brownfields in the United States. Common examples are abandoned gas stations and dry cleaners, railroad properties, old factories, warehouses, and closed military bases.
Brownfield education is available from local associations, as well as the National Brownfield Association, where you can find general information and leads to experts in your area.