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Brownfields are a challenge, but redevelopment is possible p2

7/9/2015 | Real Estate Blog

We are still talking about brownfields. As we said in our last post, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection defines them as underutilized properties, the development of which may be complicated by the presence of hazardous substances or contaminants. A brownfield site may be an old chemical plant or an old gas station. Underground storage tanks, for example, can contaminate more than the soil surrounding them: Groundwater and surface water are also at risk.

With the surfeit of abandoned properties here in Philadelphia, then, the challenge for both the state and the city has been to convince developers that taking on a brownfield is worth the investment. Redevelopment entails an assessment of the property, cleanup of existing contamination and prevention of future contamination. Even if the costs of the front-end work are manageable, there is the lingering threat of future liability.

Even if the site is not a brownfield, developers have to deal with the city’s land use objectives for the community, so it’s easy to understand why smaller companies shy away from what could be completely suitable sites. The city or the state has to overcome those reservations for each of the thousands of abandoned or vacant properties.

Fortunately, the state has cleanup standards and safeguards against liability in place. There are also multiple process and financing tools available to investors or interested developers, including city and state assistance programs. Still, evaluating the pros and cons of each may not be an easy task. That may be where the help of a good real estate attorney with experience in development and brownfield abatement comes in.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, “Brownfield Development Guide,” accessed July 3, 2015