Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

State spurs brownfield projects

By CHRISTINE HOMAN
Capital News Service

LANSING – Michigan’s industrial legacy has left its mark in more ways than one.

Decades of manufacturing have led to sites that are contaminated and deteriorating environmentally, with abandoned buildings and debris.

These sites are known as brownfields.

“There are so many of these that they create a big problem for neighborhoods, cities, communities that are trying to make the most of the land that they’ve got,” said Brad Garmon, land program director at the Michigan Environmental Council.

Brownfield redevelopment involves the clean up and reuse of such sites, often with assistance from the government or private organizations and it’s going on around the state.

For example, in Lansing a restaurant chain recently purchased a vacant hotel and plans to build a restaurant there.

In Benton Harbor is a large brownfield project which includes condominiums and a golf course.

To promote a better understanding of how to redevelop such sites, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) is hosting four workshops in May and June in Mount Pleasant, Livonia, Escanaba and Kalamazoo.

“Michigan use to be a leader of brownfield redevelopment and we’ve kind of fallen behind the pack now and we need to out in front of this,’ Randall Gross, director of environmental and regulatory affairs for the Michigan Manufacturers Association, said

Brownfield sites are diverse in both size and their new purposes.

Gross said projects can range from small lots to large automobile assembly plants and can include roads and parks.

Unlike open land, they usually have essential infrastructure in place, such as water and sewer lines.

Carrie Geyer, a brownfield grant and loan coordinator for DNRE, said brownfield redevelopment has many advantages

“You can take some of those urban center areas and bring development back there rather than developing on a clean space on the outside of town and promoting sprawl,” Geyer said.

Geyer said redevelopment stimulates the local economy and brings job back into the community.

Garmon agreed and said, “It can bring a neighborhood back to life.”

“Some of these sites are real problems for communities. They’re just sitting there, they’re not good to look at, they don’t provide anything to the economy and they can create a real drag on a local community,” he said

Garmon said the only time brownfield redevelopment seems to have a downside was when sites aren’t cleaned up properly before being reused.

“It really needs to be done right so it doesn’t continue to cause problems down the road,” Garmon said.

Gross said the only negative he sees is that sometimes it takes a while to start and complete projects.

Even so, he said, “Everybody has the same in point here. We want to redevelop these sites and not encourage development of green space.”

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: Environment

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