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Brownfields and Livable Communities

Talking Points

Brownfields are industrial or commercial sites that are, or are perceived to be, environmentally contaminated. Brownfields are complicated, but often attractive, redevelopment sites because they are connected to existing infrastructure, they offer alternatives to building on virgin land, and redeveloping them turns hazardous eyesores into community assets. They give communities the same benefits as other development: an expanded tax base, revitalized neighborhoods, and new jobs.

With an estimated 500,000 sites in the U.S. - in small towns, big cities, and rural communities alike - the potential for brownfields projects cannot be understated. They are often located in urban areas where developable land is in short supply, they qualify for government subsidies, and the property is often cheaper because of the contamination.

Architects can help develop the overall vision for a brownfields project, fit it into the context of the surrounding community and region, and keep the multitude of stakeholders - including concerned community residents - informed, involved, and on track.

The AIA strongly supports brownfields redevelopment and urges its inclusion as a vital element in livability and revitalization strategies. For more information, go to EPA's Brownfields Homepage.  

Quick Facts

* Over 900 brownfields sites, comprising more than 10,000 acres, have been successfully redeveloped. Another 700 sites, involving 9,000 acres, are currently being redeveloped.

* Actual tax revenue from brownfields projects in 45 cities totals $90 million.

* Brownfields redevelopment has generated over 83,000 jobs in 74 cities.

* An estimated $790 million to $1.9 billion of tax revenue and 576,000 jobs could be generated by brownfields redevelopment in 149 cities.

* In addition, 113 cities estimated that brownfields would allow them to support an additional 4.3 million people without adding to existing infrastructure.

* Recent federal legislation increased funding and flexibility for state and local brownfields programs and offered more liability protection for innocent parties who previously might have been subject to lengthy, costly litigation.

* Reclaiming brownfields sites will help communities become more livable by cleaning up environmental hazards, revitalizing abandoned properties, reusing existing infrastructure, and allowing infill development rather than sprawling outward.

 

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