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Brownfield redevelopment success at the Bethlehem Steel site

6/16/2011 | Real Estate Blog

Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia region have many brownfields. Broadly defined, a brownfield is a parcel of real estate that poses development challenges because of the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant on the site. Commonly, brownfields are found on abandoned industrial sites.

Because of the presence of toxic materials, these abandoned industrial sites may require steep cleanup costs in order to be redeveloped. However, brownfields are often located in suitable areas for redevelopment that are surrounded by excellent infrastructure. While redevelopment of brownfields may be made complicated because of cleanup costs, there are government programs available to assist developers with the cleanup costs associated with redevelopment.

For more than 100 years, the Bethlehem Steel plant sat on 1600 acres in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. After the Bethlehem Steel plant closed in 1995, the industrial site remained vacant as one of the largest brownfield sites in the country. After decades of steel production, the groundwater on the site was contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethane. Approximately 375 tons of contaminated soil needed to be hauled away to a landfill.

Now, the site has been redeveloped and the Sands Casino sits at the center of the redevelopment. Recently, Pennsylvania celebrated the continuing redevelopment of the former brownfield with the opening of a new 300-room hotel at the site. According to Gregory Fajt, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the brownfields of Bethlehem have “been turned into a goldmine.”

Presently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are more than 450,000 brownfields across the country. Cleaning up and redeveloping brownfields can pose some challenges, but it also offers great opportunities for redevelopers. If you have questions about brownfield redevelopment or general redevelopment in Pennsylvania, an experienced real estate attorney can help you understand your legal options and know what government programs are available to help.

Sources: The Times Leader, “Sands hotel ‘goldmine’ for the Lehigh Valley,” Andrew M. Seder, 6/10/2011, “Bethlehem Steel Case Study”, “About Brownfields”