US Mayors call for renewed commitment to brownfield regeneration

A renewed programme to redevelop the US' brownfield sites could generate 550,000 jobs, up to $2.4 billion in tax revenue for cities and provide homes for 5.8 million people, according to a report published by the mayors of the USA's major cities.

The US Conference of Mayors’s third annual brownfields report, Recycling America’s Land: A National Report on Brownfields Redevelopment found that cities throughout the US contain brownfields covering an area the size of Boston, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco combined. The report estimates that redevelopment of the 21,000 brownfield sites could generate 550,000 additional jobs, and up to $2.4 billion in new tax revenue for cities.

A total of 231 cities submitted information on brownfields to the report. The sites range in size from a quarter of an acre (0.1 ha) to a single site that measures 1,300 acres (526.5 ha).

The total acreage of the cities’ brownfield sites is 125,000 acres (50,625 ha) or approximately the total land area of the cities of Boston, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco combined.

The report outlines three major obstacles to the redevelopment of brownfield sites. Lack of funding, liability problems arising from the US’ Superfund legislation and requirements for expensive environmental assessments.

“This report further documents the negative effects of the Superfund law on the nation’s cities,” said Conference Executive Director J. Thomas Cochran. “US Mayors want Congress and the White House to join them in enacting a comprehensive development programme with incentives and other policies to stimulate private sector investment.”

Three quarters of the Mayors estimated that if their brownfields were redeveloped, their cities could realise between $878 million and $2.4 billion annually in additional tax revenues, generating up to 550,000 jobs.

The mayors said brownfield redevelopment could help support more than 5.8 million new people moving into their cities without adding appreciably to their existing infrastructure -nearly equivalent to the population of Chicago and Los Angeles combined.

An additional benefit of brownfield redevelopment cited by Mayors was the preservation of farmland and green spaces.

The Department of Agriculture estimates that on average more than three million acres (1.2 million ha) of unspoiled land were developed each year from 1992 to 1997, more than doubling the 1.4 million acres (0.68 million ha) lost per year from 1982 to 1992.

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