The National Brownfields Conference comes to Atlanta
By Howard Lalli
From May 15-17, Atlanta will highlight an aspect of its national sustainability leadership when it hosts the largest event in the country that focuses on environmental revitalization and economic redevelopment: The National Brownfields Conference.
From Atlantic Station to Aerotropolis Atlanta and the Atlanta BeltLine, Atlanta has an impressive track record of large-scale, re-use and redevelopment of properties that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines as brownfields because of the presence of pollutants or contaminants. EPA and Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division both have brownfields programs making it practical to safely clean up and sustainably reuse these properties. The Georgia Brownfield Association works to ensure our state can build on its record of redevelopment.
Redeveloping a brownfield promises significant economic, environmental and social return on investment for public and private partners alike. The life expectancy of industrial and commercial properties is limited. Their location and infrastructure – typically served by transportation, water, power and other resources – make them ideal for new uses. This recycling of land and mitigation of environmental impacts has the added benefit of saving greenspace from being developed elsewhere for commercial or industrial use. And the return of these often stigmatized, underutilized or abandoned properties to productive use can mean new jobs and revenue for public services.
Brownfield redevelopment is typically complex, usually requiring significant legal and technical expertise. Property owners, real estate redevelopers, financiers, regulators and the community all require patience, persistence and tolerance for risk in pursuing brownfield redevelopment. But choosing not to reclaim these properties represents even greater economic, environmental and social risk. And state and federal brownfield programs as well as legal and technical know-how have evolved significantly over the past decade. So brownfield redevelopment today offers significant opportunity for all of those stakeholders.
With thousands of government leaders, real estate developers and investors, economic and community development officials, attorneys and academics, and construction and engineering professionals descending on Atlanta for the National Brownfields Conference, the Southeast has a once-in-a-decade opportunity to share what we’ve accomplished and to learn from others.
Howard Lalli leads HL Strategy, a communications consultancy focused on economic, environmental and social sustainability.