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Brownfields Development A Success

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Brownfields Development A Success

Carol M. Browner By Carol M. Browner, Administrator Environmental Protection Agency

(Excerpted below are portions of a speech made by Carol Browner to the Brownfields 98 Conference in Los Angeles last November.)

What you are doing for brownfields -- bringing business and communities together from the very start -- proves one of the basic tenets of all our efforts: through partnership we can protect both people and prosperity, our health and our economy.

In just three short years, 226 brownfields pilot projects across the country bringing new life, new energy, new hope to our nation's cities!

Do you remember those early days -- the tens of thousands of abandoned, contaminated properties that held back our inner cities? The situation was grim. Shells of buildings boarded up. Old parking lots, cracked and choking with weeds. Chain link fences with signs warning, danger, keep out, toxic waste. There was little hope then. No plan for renewal. No strategy for change.

(Then) we took away the roadblocks -- removing tens of thousands of sites from the Superfund priorities list that didn't pose a significant risk to public health and the environment. This simple action opened the floodgate to cleanup and new productive use of these properties.

Our first partnership was born then -- a small grant from EPA to Cuyahoga County in Ohio. The results exceeded our wildest imaginations -- more than 180 permanent jobs, more than a $1 million boost to the tax base, greenfields spared from bulldozers.

Today, those great successes in Ohio seem almost modest. Since we began the brownfields program three short years ago, we have leveraged more than $1 billion in private funds. We have created more than 2,000 jobs, with tens of thousands more expected. And every single dollar raised, every single acre redeveloped, every single job created has been the direct result of (the) partnership ... to renew our cities.

We can protect both people and prosperity, our health and our economy.(The federal government now has) $91 million for brownfields redevelopment. This means more money for evaluating brownfields for cleanup -- to identify and prioritize problem sites. We have more money for cleanup plans -- to develop the most common-sense, cost-effective strategy for turning these brownfields around. We have more money for job training -- to create a workforce skilled in all aspects of cleanup and redevelopment. And this year, the Congress moved on a provision long-sought by this administration -- new money for actual cleanups -- $35 million.

This is enough to establish more than 60 new low-interest brownfields cleanup revolving loan funds around the country. That's up to $500,000 for communities that have assessed their brownfields problem, created a restoration plan, and are now ready for cleanup. Any city with an EPA brownfields pilot project is eligible for these funds. It's a huge opportunity.

First, these funds will leverage private development dollars -- a critical part of any city's efforts to see a brownfields redevelopment through from cleanup to productive reuse.

Second, the loan funds provide a continuous source of redevelopment money. When the loans are repaid, the money goes back into a pot from which developers can draw again and again. When you add in private dollars and other funding sources, these loan funds can be a significant source of money for investments in brownfields revitalization.

And finally, because these funds will be targeted where redevelopment dollars have been hard to come by -- the revolving loan fund will help cities overcome significant funding obstacles.

The revolving loan fund program is common sense. It's cost effective. It's even more proof that the health of our economy and the health of our environment go hand in hand -- that one does not have to come at the cost of the other.

But let me say that no amount of money, no amount of development dollars are going to bring back our cities if we do not continue working together, building partnerships to find the innovative solutions to urban renewal.

That is why we initiated the National Brownfields Partnership, to rally the federal family. When we started talking -- EPA, HUD, Transportation, Labor, altogether 20 federal agencies -- we found we could put together exciting models of cooperation. We could do a better job for you if we pooled our time, resources, our staff talent.

As many of you know, this year, Vice President Gore announced 16 brownfields showcase communities across America -- models of federal cooperation and collaboration for brownfields redevelopment.

These communities are our best efforts to use the full force of the federal government to provide communities with the resources and expertise they need to clean up and redevelop brownfields.

Lenders are working with developers, mayors, and communities. In California -- because of Bank of America financing -- a new commercial warehouse now occupies an old, abandoned auto salvage yard. A mini-storage facility has been built on a cleaned up railyard. A vacant industrial facility has been reborn into residential housing.

In Connecticut, Chase Manhattan Bank, Peoples Bank, and CitiBank are sharing Mayor Ganim's hope for Bridgeport's future. Together, these banks have invested in a revolving loan fund to finance the revitalization of the city's abandoned industrial properties.

In Dallas, Nations Bank, Bank One, Comerica Bank and others have helped finance the phenomenal comeback of that city's brownfields. Community activists are also taking the lead. In Trenton, a community group stopped illegal dumping at a site in the inner city and with an EPA seed grant, activists worked to leverage $30,000 from the state to purchase and begin cleanup and redevelopment.

In Birmingham, Alabama, the community set up an environmental clearinghouse which already has led to the transformation of an abandoned property into an industrial park for heavy industry, new businesses, and a full-scale retail center. Planners expect 2,000 new jobs from this site - all because neighborhoods and community groups are working with private interests and the government to bring new hope, new life back to their communities.

The states, every step of the way, are providing resources, technical expertise, and new innovative programs to turn the blight of brownfields into a plus for their residents. Minnesota has been working with the Ryan Development Company on revitalizing brownfields even before brownfields had a name. One project transformed an old trucking hub into a new business park that provides 1,000 jobs and more than an $800,000 boost to the local tax base every year.

And the mayors! Take Mayor Kirk of Dallas. His city's $200,000 grant from EPA leveraged nearly $54 million in public and private redevelopment dollars.

Or, check with Joe Ganim of Bridgeport. Mayor Ganim's vision for his city has led to the cleanup and redevelopment of more than 120 acres of brownfields -- and created hundreds of new jobs for Bridgeport's citizens.

In Emeryville, California, Mayor Bukowski has leveraged more than $650 million in public and private funds. Today, more than 180 acres of the city's brownfields are getting a new lease on life.

The stories go on and on. Kalamazoo has a new bakery. Bridgeport, a new stadium. Buffalo, an old steel site now producing 80,000 pounds of hydroponic tomatoes every week.

Supermarkets, health-care facilities, sorely needed housing, medical centers, new businesses and industries now rise from where those shells of boarded buildings once stood, where weeds once grew.

In the days ahead, you have the opportunity to talk to one another, share ideas -- and build even more partnerships that will make a difference for America. Let's keep our efforts going. Let's keep them growing. Let's continue our good work together.

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