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What is a Brownfield?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines a brownfield as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”

With over 450,000 estimated brownfields in the U.S., the challenge to transform these properties into more attractive, useable sites is being addressed all over the country.

Although brownfields are concentrated in urban, industrial areas, they can be found everywhere. Brownfields range in size, from a small corner gas station to a multi-acre mining site. Some examples of brownfields include:

  • vacant warehouses and factories
  • abandoned railroads
  • former service stations
  • landfills
  • parking lots
  • formerly mined lands

Brownfields can be redeveloped in many different ways: old industrial buildings can be turned into new real estate, new building can occur on cleared sites, and community infrastructure and aesthetics can be improved by creating more greenspace. Brownfield redevelopment helps to:

  • Turn community health and safety liabilities into community assets;
  • Create new, local jobs;
  • Increase property values;
  • Eliminate eyesores;
  • Enhance economic/tax base development;
  • Support sustainable use of land, by preserving greenfields and preventing sprawl; and
  • Link economic vitality with environmental benefits.