Last year saw more than $15 million in private investment dollars spent in Ann Arbor and Dexter brownfield projects on the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority’s watch.
For those who aren’t familiar, land that was typically used for industrial purposes, particularly before the advent of modern environment regulations and practices stemming from the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, comprises the bulk of what is classified as a brownfield redevelopment site under federal guidelines.
Given that many of the companies that blighted these sites no longer exist and weren’t even technically breaking the law at the time of their land-abuse, the brownfield program was created to incentivize modern developers to fund the cleanup of brownfield sites as part of their redevelopment efforts. The EPA through local brownfield authorities extends grants and reasonable loans for brownfield cleanup efforts the payments for which are factored into developer business plans.
Staffed by the Washtenaw County Office of Community & Economic Development (OCED); WCBRA works with municipal partners to identify, clean up and redevelop brownfield properties throughout Washtenaw County. Since its inception in 1999, WCBRA has supported projects representing $430 million of new investment and the creation/retention of more than 3,900 jobs.
“2016 was another active and successful year with three new Brownfield Plans approved,” said Doug McClure, WCBRA Chair. “Beyond removing dangerous buildings and the underlying contamination that compromise the environment and public health; the projects we support provide economic development opportunities with new tax base, jobs, and infill development that help re-energize commercial areas and neighborhoods.”
“The Authority is rolling out new grant and loan programs to support our municipal partners with their most difficult brownfield sites,” said Conan Smith, Washtenaw County Commissioner. “Funding for re-use planning, cleaning up pollution, and providing critical infrastructure all make these properties more likely to become positive assets in our community again.”
In 2016, the Brownfield Authority created a new Local Brownfield Revolving Fund (LBRF) to assist with brownfield projects in WCBRA member communities; and in 2017, established an Environmental Assessment Grant Program to assist public and private entities with environmental assessments on prospective brownfield properties.
“As part of our commitment to improving quality of life for Washtenaw County residents, OCED will continue to support WCBRA efforts in converting challenged brownfield properties into new revitalized properties for Washtenaw County residents” said Andrea Plevek, Director, Washtenaw County OCED.
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