1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Tony Chenhansa <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: Mon, 1 Nov 1999 13:45:20 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: [CPEO-BIF] "UB Group Proposes Regional Nonprofit Organization To Develop Brown
"UB Group Proposes Regional Nonprofit Organization To Develop Brownfields"

Release date: Friday, October 29, 1999
Contact: Ellen Goldbaum,
Phone: 716-645-5000 ext 1415
Fax: 716-645-3765

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The complicated process of revitalizing Western New York's
many brownfields could be enhanced and accelerated significantly through
the formation of a new, nonprofit organization designed to facilitate such
projects, according to a report by a new University at Buffalo group, the
Brownfield Action Project (BAP). 

Authors of the BAP report say the nonprofit organization would be the first
brownfield-redevelopment organization in the U.S. to be initiated by a
university, a fact that will allow for the latest research findings and
innovations in the field to be adapted quickly for practical application. 

An interdisciplinary group formed by UB professors of law, planning and
engineering -- each with expertise in brownfield redevelopment -- BAP is
affiliated with UB's Environment and Society Institute (ESI). 

Funded by the ESI and the university's Center for Integrated Waste
Management, the report was designed from the outset to determine how such
organizations had assisted development in other regions throughout the U.S.
and how they might work in Western New York and in other upstate regions. 

"Brownfield redevelopment is a growth industry," explained Thomas F.
Disare, clinical professor of the UB School of Law and a BAP report author,
pointing to the fact that the federal government and other sources are
making dedicated funds available to communities for development projects. 

"The communities that are the first ones that learn how to put deals
together for redeveloping brownfields will get a disproportionately high
share of the resources that are available," said Disare. 

The report looks at 11 nonprofit organizations in seven states that either
have added to their services programs to develop brownfields, or were
created specifically to do brownfield redevelopment. 

"Our interest was in promoting brownfield redevelopment in some way and we
wanted to see if this was the way to go," said A. Scott Weber, Ph.D.,
director of the Center for Integrated Waste Management, professor of civil,
structural and environmental engineering, and an author of the report. "Our
conclusion was that a nonprofit organization could play a critical role,
particularly in developing small and/or complicated sites, such as those
with a significant amount of contamination, that simply would not be
tackled by existing public or private entities. Through this process of
trying to see what others have done and the roles that they play, we have
seen where benefits lie and what the potential is here in Western New York." 

In their report, the authors point to the limited success of both the
private real-estate market and the public sector in redeveloping many types
of brownfields as an important factor that led to the formation of such
nonprofit organizations. 

"We are hoping to promote a more equitable redevelopment of brownfields by
assisting smaller municipalities and nonprofit organizations," said Robert
S. Berger, a professor in the UB School of Law and an author of the report. 

The group noted that a regional brownfield organization would fill the gap
that exists in brownfield redevelopment by recycling sites not normally
considered by the private sector. 

"Real-estate developers purchase sites and develop them if the market value
of the developed property justifies their costs," explained G. William
Page, professor and chair of the Department of Planning in the UB School of
Architecture and Planning and an author of the report. "What we're looking
for are projects where the market return may not be sufficient for a
private developer, and where we think our intervention could help remediate
and develop a site that wouldn't be developed if it were left to market
forces alone. We want to find places where the social value of development
is greater than the economic value." 

He added that such sites include those that, as brownfields, have become
magnets for unwanted social activities and contributors to urban blight. 

The kinds of development that would be considered depend largely on the
location and the nature of contamination at the site, but Page said they
could range from offices, manufacturing or warehouse facilities to
community centers, retail stores and even residences. 

Benefits of using nonprofit organizations in brownfield redevelopment cited
by the report include greater flexibility in the types of projects that can
be developed, improved access to a more diverse array of funding sources
and services, and the ability to be perceived as neutral and credible by
all the diverse parties involved. 

While noting that such organizations are new, the report points out that
they bring a welcome player to the table, particularly for difficult or
complex sites, which, according to Weber, describes many of the sites in
Western New York.

"There have been a few, very-well-publicized success stories," Weber said,
noting, for example, the tomato greenhouse that was built on an old
Republic Steel site and the Wegmans supermarket built in Buffalo. "But many
other sites in our communities have development potential but lack
sufficient expertise and the capital necessary to allow them to proceed." 

According to the report, putting together a successful
brownfield-redevelopment plan is an extremely complicated process,
requiring the coordination of many different players, including banks;
federal, state and local government agencies; private corporations, and

That level of complexity is what often prevents brownfields from ever
getting redeveloped. 

"Contrary to popular belief, brownfields come in all sizes, shapes and
degrees of complexity," said Keith Welks, president of the Phoenix Land
Recycling  Co., a nonprofit in Harrisburg that redevelops sites throughout
Pennsylvania and one of the organizations studied by the BAP.  "Nonprofit
organizations can be extremely valuable in resolving problems at difficult
brownfield sites that the private sector continues to ignore. I welcome the
creation of a new brownfield nonprofit." 

According to the report, such an organization could remove some of the
obstacles to brownfield redevelopment that exist in Western New York, where
only a small fraction of the total number of sites are even being
considered for redevelopment. 

The BAP is working toward creating a regional nonprofit organization,
identifying an appropriate funding source for staff and embarking on an
outreach effort in the community. 

The BAP report cited the following major benefits of involving UB in the
redevelopment of the region's brownfields: 

* Speedy access to innovations arising  from academic research in
technology,  financing, liability management, risk  analysis, economic
development and  land use  

* The university's proven expertise in the field across several disciplines 

* UB's public-service mission, which allows it to access grants from
government, foundations and other charities that are not available to other
types of organizations

* An ability to target assistance to smaller, more-complicated and
less-marketable sites that are not the focus of current redevelopment efforts 
*  An ability to leverage UB's considerable experience working with
private-sector interests, municipalities and neighborhoods, such as the
work done with Delta Development of Western New York, Inc. and the UB Law
School's Affordable Housing Clinic. 

Other authors of the report are Ramon  C. Garcia, a graduate of the UB
School  of Planning and Architecture, and Louis  P. Zicari, associate
director of the  Center for Integrated Waste  Management. 

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