So — you want to redevelop your brownfield site and you are wondering what steps to consider?
If you are a developer, a municipality, or a non-profit organization there are several initial questions and actions to consider. In my experience there are three items that you should always explore: Potential environmental impacts or liabilities; the future reuse of the property; and how to fund the work you need to make your vision a reality.
Environmental Due Diligence:
In this day and age, with due diligence having been a key topic for decades, it is still surprising to find savvy investors still purchasing properties — some with obvious environmental impacts — without performing their due diligence prior to purchase.
I met with one of these last week who purchased by tax sale a very large former industrial property with known impacts. While there are still some mechanisms in place to fund some of the assessment work needed, it falls well short of what is needed to bring this property back into productive use in a timely fashion.
Yes, hiring a qualified consultant to perform a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) to either EPA's All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) Rule or the most current ASTM E1527 Standard will take a little money out of your bottom line, but it is generally a very small percentage of the investment you are making in purchasing the property.
The information you glean from the ESA can literally save you big time if you discover information that could or would have ultimately cost you thousands of dollars in assessment and cleanup costs. The other big reason to perform your due diligence is to ensure that your site remains eligible for federal funding— such as an EPA Assessment Grant if you qualify to receive that type of funding or are working in a municipality that has an EPA Assessment or Revolving Loan Fund Grant.
Dependent upon whether you need to convince investors or are applying for federal funding, you need to have a firm redevelopment vision in place — a story that you can tell to sell your vision. Sometimes this is relatively simple and can be easily described — such as turning the property into a parking lot (to cap the contamination present) or redeveloping the property as green space.
But if you have something else in mind, hiring a planner who is experienced in the redevelopment of brownfield properties is key. They can work with your environmental consultant to place parking lots, buildings and other amenities to cap or contain contamination which may save considerable dollars versus traditional remediation.
And that redevelopment plan can really tell the story visually which will help you gain support from potential investors. The vision I include here — developed by Stromberg-Garrigan & Associates (SGA) is for a former 8-plus acre foundry site in Ranson, West Va., which includes some commercial/retail development, a roundabout to slow traffic, residential housing and intermixed park spaces.
Finally, the last is funding your redevelopment effort. If you are one of those entities that are eligible to receive federal assessment or cleanup funding, you should consider hiring an expert to assist you in understanding the available funding out there — it's considerable.
You may still have some skin in the game, but if you can pay for your assessment, cleanup and maybe some of your construction costs, it can be well worth the fees.
Dawn Seeburger is the owner of Environmental Resources & Consulting (ERC) in Charleston, WV. Dawn is a Michigan native with a MS in biology/toxicology from Central Michigan University.