Gazette: “‘Brownfields’ law altering landscape”

Today’s Gazette includes an AP report on the kind of smart growth we think is great: brownfields revitalization. Reusing buildings and paved areas, as opposed to knocking down urban trees and encroaching on wetlands, is infilling the right way.

“‘Brownfields’ law altering landscape”

…Back in the early 1990s, the state was faced with a backlog of up to 9,000 brownfields lost in a morass of regulatory red tape. Developers eager to salvage the sites had few assurances about what chemicals lurked in the soil, and even fewer legal protections.

The roadblocks pushed many developers onto “greenfields” – undeveloped parcels with none of the headaches of the urban lots. Old farmlands were gobbled up, adding to suburban sprawl…

In 1998, then-Gov. Paul Cellucci signed the Brownfields Act, by giving developers who made a good faith effort to clean up a parcel protections from future lawsuits…

Abandoned, blighted brownfields were replaced with housing developments, new office buildings, research facilities – even cultural attractions like the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams and the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield..

When the law was approved, the state poured $30 million into a special Brownfields Fund to provide assistance to see if an area was polluted, and then to aid with cleaning up the land…

Since the year 2000, the [state Department of Environmental Protection] has helped bring back 672 sites in 198 cities and towns – offering technical assistance or helping a developer or town navigate through the complex law…

See also:

Syd Gernstein: “Brownfields Revitalization Cuts Urban Blight, Suburban Sprawl”
…regulatory uncertainties made it difficult, risky and impractical
for entrepreneurs to invest in brownfield redevelopment. Under the
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act
(CERCLA, or Superfund), a new owner could potentially be held liable
for environmental wrongdoing that happened on the land before

Relief did not come until local lawmakers cleared
the uncertainties and eliminated liability concerns through legislation
like Ohio’s “Covenant Not To Sue.”

MassDEP Brownfields Success Stories

EPA: Brownfields Success Stories
Lowell, MA
(PDF, 2002): Almost completely developed, with historic industrial
buildings standing adjacent to high-density residential neighborhoods,
Lowell was faced with a critical shortage of land and the modern
industrial space needed to attract job-producing businesses to the

Through implementation of the Acre Plan and the support
of its local, state, and federal partners, the City of Lowell will
create new opportunities for developers and investors while creating
new jobs, reducing poverty, increasing the tax base, and protecting the
environment. The Coalition for a Better Acre hopes to rehabilitate as
many as 500 homes in the neighborhood, build 150 new residential units,
and reach 50 percent home ownership within 20 years. A new grocery
store has already been built on a former brownfield within the Acre,
one of the first successful redevelopment projects in the area…