$11M in grants to regenerate US brownfield sites

More money is being given to US cities to clean up and develop vacant brownfield sites. US Vice President Al Gore added to the Clinton Administration's commitment to the regeneration of inner-city brownfield sites when he announced, on 21 June, more than $11M in grants.

“These grants will help communities transform brownfields into hubs of economic activity, creating new jobs and new opportunities,” said Gore. The grants provide up to $200,000 for 57 specific projects and form part of the US government’s programme to encourage regeneration of the country’s inner cities.

The sites in question and not included on the Superfund toxic waste National Priorities list and, therefore, are not considered a serious risk to public health. Nonetheless, the sites’ perceived contamination has discouraged developers from buying them. “Because of the stigma of contamination and legal barriers to redevelopment, sites remain unproductive and vacant,” according to the EPA.

This latest announcement of 57 additional grants for brownfield regeneration across the US brings the total number of such grants to more than 300, with a value of more than $69M. The first $200,000 was awarded to the City of Cleveland in 1993. Since Cleveland’s site was regenerated, several businesses have located to the site, more than 180 jobs have been created and the improvement in the payroll tax base has netted the local economy more than $1M.

In addition to providing funds, the US government has removed legal obstacles to the development of brownfield sites, has implemented legislation designed to protect lenders and government agencies from litigation once they have redeveloped sites and has introduced tax incentives to help businesses recover the costs of clean up quickly.

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