February 22, 2018
Connect Media asked AEI Consultants’ Karla Smith, an Executive Vice President and Division Lead for the San Francisco-based company’s Site Mitigation Division, to share insights into trends surrounding development on brownfield sites. The trained geologist offers intriguing ways these projects are helping to breathe new life into cities in our latest 3 CRE Q&A.
Q: Brownfields are being converted into new developments in several major U.S. markets, such as San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey. What new trends and pressures are developers and cities facing when it comes to these redevelopments?
A: A move towards more walkability outside of traditional urban cores, growing interest in experiential mixed-use development along with the environmental justice movement are driving interest in brownfields – facilities that are no longer in use or land that was previously developed – in both major and smaller markets.
One emerging trend is the repurposing of former industrial waterfront sites into new hotspots offering urban-style living. These developments offer an excellent backdrop to destination retail, hospitality, and multifamily properties through revitalizing and promoting previously environmentally blighted areas, but must be thoroughly assessed to identify and mitigate environmental hazards.
These projects require a strong and experienced team of consultants, contractors, and representatives. Further, communicating the benefits of these projects to the general public and gaining support and trust for these revitalizations are essential components.
Q: As the brownfield redevelopment trend continues to emerge throughout the industry, what new or existing regulations should developers and owners be aware of?
A: Brownfields can be high-reward, but involve an ever-changing compliance process. As technological advances enhance the industry’s ability to detect issues, new discoveries such as harm caused by certain chemicals and other factors now contribute to regulations that can be updated at any given time.
It is important that developers and owners stay on the pulse of emerging contaminants and collaborate extensively with federal agencies such as the EPA, as well as applicable state agencies, local counties, and cities, to identify and make available resources or funding that can be used for brownfield activities. The financial piece of the puzzle is key.
Q: Recently, your team attended the National Brownfields Training Conference. What were the top two takeaways from that conference that commercial developers and owners should know?
A: The first takeaway is that pre-planning and teamwork by all parties involved in a brownfield redevelopment is key, but does not always happen efficiently – especially in smaller markets with limited resources.
Developers, owners and municipalities must partner with environmental consultants, financial consultants and construction firms that are well-versed in the regulatory brownfield process and the financial aspects of these redevelopments.
Another takeaway is that data collection, analytical technologies as well as material handling and disposition techniques are improving and becoming increasingly critical components of successful brownfield redevelopments.
While technologies for gathering real-time data have been in use for many years, the speed and breadth of collecting data and gaining real-time results has become more sophisticated – making the processes faster and more precise. Overall, new technologies and techniques are resulting in new strategic approaches for re-development that are ultimately more efficient in developing and revitalizing these brownfield areas.
For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Dennis Kaiser