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Redeveloping properties: best practices for encouraging environmentally sustainable brownfield development.

The foundation of brownfield sustainable development is built on the premise of economic development needs, along with the environmental protection. Returning brownfields to greenfields should be our focus on revitalizing the legacy of old industrial properties.


Michigan has one of the leading state brownfield programs. Many sites have been cleaned and closed as a result of innovative programming. In combination with other development incentive programs, Michigan has been able to attract development to built-out areas. As the development community recognized the difference these programs made to their bottom line, interest in matured areas increased. What had started as a clean-up program became an economic development and infrastructure planning tool that paved the way for the environmentally sustainable brownfield market.

Much like the land the clean-up program is targeted to benefit, the program has aged, regulations have increased and future value of its benefits have diminished. Increasing use, liability uncertainly and shrinking funding have increased the complexity and decreased effectiveness of programs in place. As both an environmental clean-up tool and economic development tool, programs must promote economic functionality and protect human health and the environment. While an effective land use policy tool, this has increased the complexity of the program. As a vital tool to focus development and land use, the program needs to be updated to:

* Simplify regulations to encourage greater cleanups and redevelopment

* Exceed other states' programs to keep Michigan on top of competition for economic development of urbanized areas.

While the program has its own challenges, there are also other factors affecting the effectiveness Michigan's remediation tools. There are a number of other programs to encourage redevelopment of brownfield properties in Michigan. Historical tax credits, obsolete property, neighborhood enterprise zones, renaissance zones and empowerments zones are all individual programs available to redevelop brownfield property in Michigan. These programs must remain part of the equation in order to have sustainable brownfield program in Michigan.

Abed R. Houssar is corporate energy manager for Guardian Industries Corp.

What is a Brownfield?

A Brownfield is any real property which, due to actual or suspected environmental contamination, may le idle, unaccupied, underutilized or unused. A Brownfield may be industrial, commercial, agricultural or residential.

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Title Annotation:FEATURE
Author:Houssari, Abed R.
Date:May 1, 2008
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