Across the states, there are about 450,000 Brownfield sites according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The remediation efforts for these contaminated sites can be lengthy and complicated, but rewarding when they are done right. The redeveloped properties often serve as a catalyst for forming new communities and fostering economic development. Here’s Sally Krauss, Executive Vice President of Real Estate & Environmental Affairs, on what an actual remediation process looks like and what she has learned from her own experiences.
Q: What, exactly, is a Brownfield site?
SK: A Brownfield site is a previously developed property that has been contaminated with a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. For example, a piece of land that used be a manufacturing factory, gas station, recycling facility or dry cleaning business, is often classified as a Brownfield site. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are about 450,000 Brownfield sites across the states.
Q: Is there a solution for such contaminated sites?
SK: There is always a solution. Brownfield site redevelopment can be complicated, made difficult by residual impacts left behind. Despite the property is not currently being used, there may be a gas tank still buried in the ground or chemicals that were used in dry cleaning contaminating the soil of the surrounding areas.
Also, many companies quickly shy away from a Brownfield site because of the price tag that comes along with the redevelopment project. Yet, when you become a Brownfield site developer, you have many perks like Release of Liability, financial incentives and even reimbursements for partial clean-up initiatives.
At DLC, we’re on a search for these sites because we see them as a great source for value creation. We remediate them and turn them into viable, attractive shopping centers or standalone tenant buildings for clients such as Walgreens Boots Alliance and Chick-Fil-A.
Q: Can you walk through the steps of Brownfield redevelopment?
SK: When a company is ready to redevelop a Brownfield site, the first step is to find the right location. DLC has identified many Brownfield sites in a variety of locations such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Indiana.
Once you’ve settled on the property, you have to conduct extensive due diligence of the land to analyze the soil, groundwater and surface water through testing for hazardous substances. Speak up and don’t forget your voice when speaking with the Environmental Agency in your State and local municipalities, along with your consultant. They are your partners and everything will go much faster and smoother if you treat them that way. Remember to question what the consultant is recommending given there are different measures of the remediation. Subsequently, plan appropriate measures to remove identified risks and liabilities.
The remediation process can be complex, and you need to make sure to follow the state guidelines. If you’re a retailer, I’d recommend working with a company with specialized expertise to handle remediation because it can help you avoid stress and hassle. DLC has handled soil remediation, groundwater remediation and removal process for volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCBs), above-ground storage tanks (ASTs), underground storage tanks (USTs), asbestos-containing materials (ACM), mold, lead paint, oil water separators, and more.
One thing I learned from my experiences is that when you’re working with state agencies, the rule of thumb is to follow the breadcrumbs they have provided rather than creating your own separate path.
Q: Can you share one of DLC’s successes with Brownfield redevelopment?
SK: Levittown Town Center in Pennsylvania is a great example that shows social and economic benefits of redeveloping a Brownfield site. It was a ground-up redevelopment project, transforming a former enclosed mall into a 463,740 square foot open-air shopping center. The site had a number of environmental concerns including, VOCs, ASTs, more than 30 USTs, oil water separators, and lead-based paint. The owner of this properly entered the Pennsylvania Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act to complete remediation of the site and we successfully facilitated the remediation process.
Probably no one would have imagined how such a contaminated site could have turned into a busy power center like what it is there today. There’s now a Walmart, Home Depot, Ross and Petsmart, bustling with shoppers. You really need to work with an entrepreneurial spirit to see how you can seize the opportunity to create values while others see a mere piece of desolate land.
Q: What advice can you give to someone on working on Brownfield redevelopment?
SK: You need good partners. Whether you’re working with us, other consultants or state agencies, things will get done more easily when you have a solid partnership and leverage their expertise and guidelines.
As Executive Vice President of Real Estate & Environmental Affairs, Sally Krauss is responsible for all transactions regarding acquisitions, refinances, development and dispositions. She works closely with and manages attorneys, lenders, brokers, and third parties to successfully close each transaction while handling environmental cleanup and remediation projects.