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Solving the Brownfields Puzzle
Marty Jones, President and CEO, MassDevelopment speaking at Attleboro City Hall about brownfields redevelopment as part of the downtown revitalization.
Redevelopment in Massachusetts often resembles a layered puzzle. There could be limited space, historic buildings, zoning restrictions, or any number of obstacles that officials and businesses can shift, turn, or fit – like a puzzle piece – with creativity and cooperation. Still, one puzzle piece isn’t as easy to maneuver into the big picture: a brownfields site.
Brownfields, sites contaminated by former industrial or commercial uses, can stop a development in its tracks if the right resources aren’t available. The Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, established in 1998 and managed by MassDevelopment, aims to provide the assessment and cleanup resources to encourage reuse of these sites in economically distressed areas.
Within the Fund, brownfields developers have options for financing: the Site Assessment Program to assess potential contamination and develop remediation plans, if needed, and the Brownfields Remediation Loan program for brownfields cleanup. Those looking to redevelop brownfields can apply for a Priority Project designation from MassDevelopment. These are sites that are clear priorities for redevelopment by the community in which a developer has shown interest and reuse would be viable but for the contamination. Priority Project status allows an entity to apply for up to $2 million to remediate and prepare the site for development.
Sometimes, cleaning up a brownfields site can be the first piece of the puzzle. In Attleboro, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the EPA, and MassDevelopment have worked with the city on its downtown redevelopment as part of the Lieutenant Governor’s Brownfields Support Team initiative. The brownfields grant MassDevelopment provided to help Attleboro clean up a parcel on Lamb Street may seem like a drop in the bucket, but remediation is a necessary first step to relocate the Department of Public Works and open up space for a major part of the downtown picture the city envisions: a new transportation center.
The Fund has proven to be an effective economic development tool for other cities and towns in Massachusetts, becoming a national model by transforming contaminated urban sites into green shoots of economic hope for both housing and jobs. Since its inception, through FY2011 the Fund has invested nearly $61.5 million in assessment and remediation in 104 cities and towns. Cleaned-up sites have become parks, community health centers, biotech clusters, and apartments. Sites that once lay vacant have potential to host thriving businesses, putting these parcels back on the tax rolls and generating income for the community.
One successful example of brownfields redevelopment is Worcester’s Gateway Park, a mixed-use life sciences development on a 55-acre former industrial site. Since 1999, MassDevelopment has worked with the Worcester Business Development Corporation (WBDC) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) on the project, providing a total of $749,564 through the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund to assess contamination and clean up oil, hydrocarbons, organic solvents, and metals. The site now houses the 120,000-square-foot WPI Bioengineering and Life Sciences Center, with construction ongoing for another 92,000-square-foot life sciences building.
If you’re interested in starting your puzzle, you can visit the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund page on MassDevelopment’s website or call 800-445-8030.
MassDevelopment, Massachusetts's finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. The agency manages the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund on behalf of the Commonwealth. MassDevelopment is a Partner in Action for ICIC's upcoming Inner City Economic Summit in Boston.
BY Guest Blogger on August 14th, 2012
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