Brownfields Practicum: Regeneration and Reuse of Brownfield Lands

\”A Brownfields Site is real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence, or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant\”Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act January 2002AbstractThis course concerns the reclamation of sites altered by prior industrial or commercial uses and in particular those that are derelict, environmentally hazardous and located within neighborhoods and/or close to residential communities. The subject matter addresses recent advances in the legal, regulatory, environmental, economic and community landscape as well as the remediation of despoiled land in a manner that reclaims and redevelops these sites for future sustainable uses. Of interest to the instructor is how these advances can inform more progressive and creative planning and design work, and conversely, to what extent sustainable planning and design work can direct the regeneration and reuse of these urban environments. Under consideration this semester is the class of sites commonly known as brownfields. OverviewIn the preface to the classic publication- Brownfields, Cleaning and Reusing Contaminated Properties by Charles Bartsch and Elizabeth Collaton published twelve years ago in 1997, the authors broadly describe the background and key issues of brownfields as follows: \”Virtually every city in the nation\’s older industrial regions, no matter its size, grapples with the challenge of unused manufacturing facilities and other industrial sites. These properties include the shuttered steel mills in western Pennsylvania and on Chicago\’s southeast side; mining operations in Montana and Arizona; closed timber mills that dot many small towns in Washington and Oregon; and declining defense contractors, metal plating factories, machine shops, and chemical plants in communities from Michigan to Mississippi. Local public officials, economic development practitioners, and plant owners who have sought to revitalize fallow industrial properties face a daunting challenge: contamination of the surrounding land and water, buildings and equipment. Public concern about health effects from hazardous chemicals, stricter environmental laws, and changing private-sector development priorities have made it increasingly difficult for communities to restore and reuse former manufacturing sites. The precise magnitude of site contamination is unknown, but it is no doubt pervasive and significant, especially in areas with long manufacturing histories.\”Broadly described as waste, despoiled and contaminated, brownfields continue to be of the highest priority in the development and regeneration of the nation\’s urban centers. The U.S. General Accounting Office originally estimated in 1996 that there were 450,000 brownfields in the nation, listing 7,733 in the State of Massachusetts and 395 within the City of Boston. Of significance to this class is the changing climate for the reuse of brownfields where a mixture of community, public health and sustainability development concerns are now replacing solely regulatory and economic factors as a driving force. Three broad strategies have served to date as approaches to Brownfield restoration. The first was the desire to simply restore brownfield land or property to its original pristine state. This strategy relied on legislation and regulations to direct restorative action. This was unquestionably the most costly strategy and generally took the most time to implement. Second, a market approach rooted simply in the restored economic value of the land or property. This was the governmental strategy to clean brownfields. This approach required private owners to initiate action to determine the type, location and concentration of contaminants. This was a costly process for the property owner, and was