Brownfield Fundamentals: Finding the (Not So) Hidden Gems In Your Community

Brownfields are everywhere. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are nearly 500,000 brownfield sites across the country, including approximately 10,000 in Wisconsin. In your community, it might be the abandoned gas station that closed long ago, or the textile mill on the edge of town that was sold off and is slowly ceasing operations, or even the 500-acre former auto assembly plant that was once the lifeblood of a thriving community.

Whatever the property, whether commercial or industrial, if the reuse of the property is hindered by suspected environmental contamination, it’s a brownfield. But with support, vision and some imagination, that brownfield property might be a diamond in the rough; and redeveloping that property may have benefits that extend far beyond the property line including:

  • Neighborhood revitalization
  • Increased tax revenues
  • Local economic growth and investment
  • Removal of blighted properties and harmful contamination from the environment

Take Stock

Wisconsin is unquestionably a beautiful state with abundant natural resources. Waterways, for example, are a common feature in many towns. Decades ago, community leaders recognized that developing businesses and industries near those waterways was the key to the community’s success.

Fast forward to today and those waterfront properties that have seen better days could once again play a significant role in reshaping your community.

Nearby natural resources may not be a town’s only selling point. What other features could be improved? A downtown business district with a shuttered storefront? An idled site that’s on the main road into your community?

Brownfields are opportunities in the making. The hidden gems are waiting to be discovered. Redeveloping a brownfield site can seem like a daunting task. For help creating an inventory of potential cleanup and redevelopment sites in your community, please visit the Brownfields Inventory Tool, offered by the Technical Assistance for Brownfields Program at Kansas State University.

Take Action

When a community (local government unit) takes ownership of a brownfield property, a variety of cleanup options and strategies exist that wouldn’t otherwise be available to the private sector.

If you’ve identified a potential site for environmental cleanup, but have lingering questions about the next steps, request a Green Team meeting with the brownfield specialists at the DNR. The DNR can offer guidance regarding:

  • Property acquisition
  • Environmental liability
  • Financial grant and loan award options

A DNR Green Team meeting brings the right people to the table to discuss issues, answer key questions and give everyone a better understanding of the cleanup and redevelopment project.

When your community is ready to take advantage of those hidden gems, the DNR is here to provide the help you need.

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