Report Points to Brownfield Redevelopment as Source of City Revenues

A new report highlights the potential contribution that redeveloping brownfields can make to city revenues.

A new report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) highlights the potential contribution that redeveloping brownfields can make to city revenues.

According to the study, 54 cities reported that 161,880 new jobs were created through the redevelopment of 2,118 sites with 64,730 jobs in the pre-development / remediation stage and 97,150 permanent jobs.

Brownfields, abandoned or underutilized properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by either real or perceived environmental contamination, present a major challenge to cities both large and small, primarily because of the lack of public- and private-sector resources that are necessary to redevelop these properties back into productive use.

“Cleaning up and recycling land back into productive use while saving pristine greenfields must be seen as a priority for the nation. A good portion of our most valuable farmland is located in or around cities. Unfortunately, much of that farmland and other wilderness areas have been lost to development. Redeveloping brownfields can play a key role in easing development pressures, promoting sustainability, and preserving our ability to feed our nation and the world,” commented Ashley Swearengin, mayor of Fresno, Calif., and the chairwoman of the USCM Environmental Committee.

Since 1993, a total of $309 million in additional local tax revenue was generated in 50 of the cities surveyed from 654 redeveloped brownfield sites. Significantly, 58 cities estimated that, if their brownfields were redeveloped, potential revenue could range from $872 million to $1.3 billion annually.

According to the report, the number of brownfield sites has decreased in many cities. A large proportion of surveyed cities (84 percent) reported success in redeveloping brownfields sites over the past 17 years. Out of the successful cities, 65 were able to redevelop a total of 1,010 sites since 1993, encompassing approximately 7,210 acres. Additionally, 70 cities report that 906 sites are currently being redeveloped, comprising 4,683 acres.

“As co-chair of the Conference of Mayors’ Brownfield Task Force since 1995, I am so pleased with the progress that local communities have made over the past two decades to redevelop brownfields throughout the nation. Mayors have worked hand in hand with EPA to develop a program that was later codified by Congress that promoted the redevelopment of brownfields in so many cities. Jobs have been created, tax revenues have been generated, and the environment has been improved. However, we still have thousands of additional properties that need to be cleaned up and redeveloped. We must not rest on our past work, but look to ensure that we have the necessary tools to continue our work to successfully redevelop these cities,” said J. Christian Bollwage, mayor of Elizabeth, N.J., and chair of the USCM Brownfields Task Force.

Other highlights of the survey:

  • In 1993, 67 cities estimated that they had a total of 11,824 browfield sites.

  • In 2010, 75 cities estimated that they had a total of 29,624 brownfield sites; consuming 45,437 acres of land.

  • In 1993, the time it took to redevelop a brownfield site was one year to indefinite; while in 2010, the time-frame was from six months to 12 years.

  • The top four programs cities said were helpful to redeveloping brownfields in the surveyed cities are: EPA assessment funding, private-sector investment, EPA cleanup funds, and state programs such as the voluntary clean-up programs.

This study is the ninth in a series of reports that have documented brownfield redevelopment by local communities throughout the United States and the potential revenue that could be generated.

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