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Planning the Next Life for Brownfields : Greater Ohio attends Brownfield Workshop

On Monday March 21st Greater Ohio attended a Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Workshop hosted by Ohio Department of Development and Smart Growth America.  The workshop brought together urban planners from Ohio and Michigan to discuss strategies for writing a successful application to a US EPA pilot program that supports the planning phase of brownfield and underground storage tank (i.e. former gas stations, etc.) remediation. Area-wide planning works at “area” scale—everything from one city block to a neighborhood to a multi-municipal corridor.  Area-wide planning acknowledges that even just one contaminated, post-industrial lot can impact an entire neighborhood, and it also enables communities to comprehensively plan for neighborhoods where multiple, non-contiguous, brownfield sites exist.  The US EPA pilot program was established to assist communities with the planning phase of brownfield redevelopment—the funds are being used to support brownfield inventories, build community buy-in through education and outreach, develop market analyses and other early-stage activities.

Presenters from the US EPA program and three successful applicants, including one from Cleveland, shared strategies for writing successful proposals.  All pointed to the need for a strong, comprehensive plan for the entire ”area”—essentially the brownfields planning program is just one of many strategies that will assist municipalities and nonprofits in the comprehensive revitalization of an neighborhood or corridor.  To this point, all three applicants had received additional monies from Department of Transportation or HUD for the same larger project, and many of the other successful applicants were using the area-wide planning monies for a full scale, long term, redevelopment program.

As a legacy of our manufacturing past, so many cities in Ohio now struggle with the assessment, cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields.  Luckily Ohio has a strong brownfields program through the Department of Development, which Greater Ohio has long supported.  Greater Ohio is heartened to see programs like the area-wide planning pilot coming from the federal level and supported by state programs because these kinds of programs incentivize and reward long term and comprehensive planning.  As Ohio continues to grow its metros, redeveloping brownfields and making them available for infill development will be a key activity in leveraging the competitive assets already located in Ohio’s cities.