Thursday, August 6, 2009

Turning brownfields into green

A potential urban renewal site.
The province of British Columbia is dishing out $1 million to 12 brownfield projects in the western Canadian province. The cash outlay is the first major financing package of its recently formed Brownfield Renewal Strategy program. The BRS is providing up to $40,000 for preliminary site investigations and up to 85 percent of the costs for other types of work.

“The Brownfield Renewal Strategy program is focused on encouraging the redevelopment of under-used lands that have potential for community benefit,” said BC Agriculture and Lands Minister Steve Thomson. “The goal is for this funding to support the initial environmental work necessary to return these sites back into productive use. The program acts as an important catalyst for local economic growth, because for every dollar of government funding we put into these investigations, two dollars are invested by the successful applicants.”

With a scarcity of land in metropolitan areas brownfield properties are being eyed for urban renewal projects. Once deemed unpalatable to developers owing to their industrial lineage and potential site contamination, the costs associated with rehabilitating brownfield lands has dropped while the technology to clean up the lands has advanced.

Organizations such as the non-profit National Brownfield Association encourage the use of green design when developing brownfield sites. Headquartered in Chicago, the NBA acts as a resource center for public and private sector professionals in both Canada and the United States.

At the federal level in America the EPA has a brownfield website with information on how to access grants and funding, while reading up on applicable laws and statutes and success stories.

The EPA has recently provided federal stimulus funds to a number of communities nationwide from a pool of close to $7 million. The funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is intended to provide brownfield job training across the country. Tacoma, Washington received $500 000 this week to provide training for up to 200 interested job seekers.

“This brownfield job training program will put people to work in jobs that help clean up the environment and boost Tacoma’s economy,” said acting EPA regional administrator Michelle Pirzadeh.

Back in Canada, the province of BC will host the Canadian Brownfields 2009 Conference in Vancouver this fall. The October date marks the first time that the conference is being held outside of eastern Canada. The NBA's flagship "The Big Deal 2010" conference is headed to Atlanta in April.

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