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EPA Smart Growth Grants from 2002 RFIPs

EPA's "Smart Growth: Saving Open Space, Revitalizing Brownfields" grant program is an important component of EPA's "Open Space Preservation Strategies for Promoting Smarter Growth and Environmental Preservation" initiative, announced in January 2002. This initiative recognizes the critical importance of linking open space preservation and brownfield redevelopment through a smart growth approach to achieve better environmental protection.

In its 2002 pilot year, the grant program awarded $405,000 to nine Brownfields Showcase communities across the U.S. to incorporate smart growth into their planning, revitalization, and/or redevelopment efforts. Use of smart growth principles in brownfield redevelopments can create greater benefits from the reuse of these infill sites, reduce demand for land for development on the urban fringe, and improve the air and water quality of the regions in which they are applied. Grant recipients emphasize projects that feature innovative community actions or successful responses to barriers to smart growth implementation and brownfields redevelopment that can be replicated in communities across the country. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Linda Fisher announced the awards on July 24, 2002.

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Project 525, Mystic Valley Development Corporation

The Mystic Valley received designation and support from EPA as a National Brownfields Showcase Community in October 2000.

Mystic Valley Development Corporation's (MVDC) TeleCom City is a regional economic development project being undertaken by the Massachusetts cities of Everett, Malden, and Medford, which are north of Boston. The project involves the redevelopment of 207 acres of former industrial property. TeleCom City is expected to become a center for the telecommunication industry with more than 1.4 million square feet of office, research and development, and manufacturing space and 60 acres of public open space.

A study conducted by Fannie Mae indicated that the project would increase demand for housing in the area by 525 units. MVDC's effort to address this demand is called "Project 525." Project 525's first initiative is the redevelopment of an 8-acre site in Everett, which will result in 200 to 250 units of housing. Ten to twenty percent of this new housing will be affordable.

The EPA grant will provide funding for a workshop to solicit public input on the design of the housing project, a traffic/transportation analysis, preparation of zoning and land use regulations for the area, and support for the developer selection process. These efforts are expected to result in a project that reflects smart growth principles, secures public and private housing investment totaling $24 million, and facilitates the reuse of a significant brownfield site into a mixed-use, economically vibrant community asset.

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Woonasquatucket River Greenway Project, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM)

The state of Rhode Island received designation and support from EPA as a National Brownfields Showcase Community in March 1998.

The grant will support preparation of planning documents to identify and recommend land use, zoning, and other regulatory revisions that promote infill development of brownfield sites and vacant parcels along the Woonasquatucket River in Providence. The Woonasquatucket, which has been federally designated as an American Heritage River, was once a prosperous industrial zone. Historic mill buildings still exist in the area, although nine were recently demolished. The community would like future development to better use the historic assets of the area, as well as respond to challenges such as unemployment and neighborhood disinvestment.

RIDEM will work with the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council and neighborhood groups that have established goals for the area, including river habitat restoration, public access to the river, and appropriately scaled infill development that encourages employment opportunities for local residents. Current zoning and land use regulations are not conducive to these goals. Therefore the project will incorporate existing neighborhood planning documents and the Woonasquatucket River Greenway Master Plan into a single document to promote neighborhood revitalization, habitat restoration, and brownfields revitalization.

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Baltimore Smart Growth, Baltimore City Department of Planning

The city of Baltimore received designation and support from EPA as a National Brownfields Showcase Community in March 1998.

Brownfields development in Baltimore has steadily increased due to changes in state and federal laws, increased familiarity among the development and lending communities about brownfields redevelopment requirements, and financial assistance now available for these types of projects. Redevelopment of brownfields in Baltimore, however, still faces a major challenge in terms of zoning and land use.

This grant supported the efforts of the city of Baltimore to incorporate smart growth strategies in the city's new comprehensive master plan and subsequent comprehensive rezoning effort. The project was completed in 2006 and produced a proposal to incorporate smart growth strategies and regulatory changes into the comprehensive master plan and the subsequent revised zoning code, and a report outlining its actual experience including challenges and solutions to incorporating smart growth principles into these documents. In addition, detailed research was completed regarding parking policies and park zoning to inform regulatory initiatives.

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Des Moines Agrimergent Technology Park, City of Des Moines

The city of Des Moines received designation and support from EPA as a National Brownfields Showcase Community in October 2000.

The grant will support development of a user-friendly mathematical model that will calculate the costs, cost savings, and other benefits of implementing smart growth and environmental protection strategies. It will specifically relate to site and building design on brownfields proposed for industrial use.

The project is an opportunity to apply smart growth principles to industrial development. Smart growth and environmental indicators will be developed to measure the success of proposed projects. Indicators may include acres of developable land preserved, air quality impacts, and urban runoff. The model will be used to develop design guidelines and to identify incentives necessary for businesses to invest in industrial areas with existing infrastructure. It will also be used to make recommendations for incorporating these guidelines into city land use policies and to create incentives for developers to use these sites. The project will help make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost-effective. The U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration in Des Moines has committed $1 million to the early development of this project.

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Assunpink Creek, City of Trenton, Division of Economic Development

The city of Trenton received designation and support from EPA as a National Brownfields Showcase Community in March 1998.

The grant will support preparation of development plans for three brownfield sites along the Assunpink Creek near downtown Trenton, including two surface parking lots and a concrete culvert that buries the Assunpink Creek. Currently, these sites increase runoff to the creek and nearby Delaware River and do not effectively serve the community. This project seeks to return the sites to a more productive use that incorporates smart growth principles. The project will include a detailed site analysis and an evaluation of available environmental technologies, including sustainable urban design and engineering. The city hopes to create specifications for environmentally appropriate development of the sites that could be applied to other brownfield sites throughout the city and beyond.

Trenton has been identified as one of several growth areas by the New Jersey State Plan. The goal of this project is to maximize development potential in the area without sacrificing quality of life and environmental goals. The city is seeking a mixed-use site design that incorporates public access to the creek along a trail that will link to the Delaware River Walk and other regional trails. An ideal plan would also provide bicycle and pedestrian access to Trenton's downtown and several residential areas, increase housing options in the downtown, and reduce pollutant runoff into the creek and Delaware River.

The work will be performed in conformance with all New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) requirements. NJDEP is expected to contribute a $100,000 grant to the project to fund detailed engineering and hydrologic studies of the sites. It will also help implement the resulting development specifications.

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The cities of St. Louis, Missouri, and East St. Louis, Illinois, received designation and support from EPA as a National Brownfields Showcase Community in October 2000.

The grant will support creation of a network of local officials and citizens throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area to better connect open space preservation and brownfields redevelopment. The network's specific tasks will include determining the brownfield/open space needs of the individual communities and the region and developing a policy paper to consider the creation of a regional "true cost" development impact fee system and a regional transfer of development rights program. Both tasks will encourage preserving open space on the urban fringe and absorbing growth in brownfields sites in the urban center.

The central cities of St. Louis, Missouri, and East St. Louis, Illinois, no longer contain undeveloped greenfield areas. However, their surrounding inner suburbs contain both brownfields and greenfields, and the region as a whole has experienced a significant amount of sprawl in the past two decades. A key element of this project's regional approach is to forge relationships to build knowledge about smart growth, especially as it relates to open space preservation and the reuse of brownfield properties.

The inner suburbs are small in population and therefore cannot individually afford to employ professional staff to confront these issues. The city of St. Louis will contract with the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council (EWGCC), a regional council of governments and planning agencies, to conduct most project activities. The project will complement a regional smart growth planning effort already underway at EWGCC called "Creating Quality Communities: A Blueprint for Regional Action." The conclusions from the brownfield and smart growth policy paper will be incorporated into the final Blueprint report.

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Commercial Sites Reuse Handbook, City of Kansas City

The cities of Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, received designation and support from EPA as a National Brownfields Showcase Community in March 1998.

The grant will support outreach and production of a handbook of tools and incentives designed to facilitate the redevelopment of older commercial brownfield sites in urban and suburban locations throughout the city. Commercial brownfields sites often include contamination and can be challenging to redevelopment in suburban communities.

The first phase of the project will inventory the tools, incentives, and techniques available locally to create smart growth designs and revitalize brownfields. Research will then be performed on relevant national models and best practices in these fields. A handbook will be compiled containing information on smart growth techniques for brownfield commercial sites that can cut development costs, offer unique amenities, and respond to environmental impacts. It will also highlight relevant brownfield incentives, tools, and strategies.

A design workshop will be conducted for two local, commercial brownfield sites, one urban and one suburban. The results of the workshop will be incorporated into the handbook, which will be presented at a series of roundtable events held for developers, landowners, and others involved in the redevelopment process. The project will actively seek input from the community on methods to make commercial site reuse attractive and to determine the needs of communities near commercial brownfield sites. The results may be used to suggest improvements to city codes and policies to encourage reuse and smart growth design of brownfield sites.

Goals of this project include balancing regional growth in urban and suburban locations through marketing assistance for both of these areas, and encouraging mixed-use redevelopment to better meet community service and housing needs.

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Brownfield Screening and Redevelopment Guidelines, City of Chicago Department of Environment

The city of Chicago received designation and support from EPA as a National Brownfields Showcase Community in March 1998.

The grant will support development of a tool to screen brownfield sites for redevelopment potential as mixed-income residential or mixed-use communities. The project will also produce guidelines for incorporating smart growth principles into brownfield redevelopment.

To develop these resources, the city's Department of Environment (DOE) will partner with the Chicago Housing Authority, the Department of Planning and Development, and New Homes for Chicago, an affordable-homeownership initiative. These groups will review existing Chicago brownfield project histories, smart growth principles, current zoning ordinances, market data, community needs, and available city databases for inclusion in the screening tool. Input from neighborhood developers and other community-based organizations will also be incorporated. The data will be analyzed to identify factors that may be used to screen brownfield sites for potential success as housing or mixed-use redevelopment projects.

The second phase of the project will review smart growth principles to determine how they might be implemented at brownfield redevelopment sites in a cost-effective manner that protects human health and the environment. Guidelines will be produced that can be used in bid specifications for redevelopment projects or as a guidance document.

DOE hopes to use these tools to expand opportunities for affordable housing development within the city. The tools may also help determine sites that will better support the community by generating manufacturing or retail jobs and providing services to the community. The tools could be adopted by other communities to evaluate and implement smart growth redevelopment of brownfield sites.

Update: Smart Growth for Brownfields Redevelopment: A Brownfields Screening Tool (PDF) (45 pp, 872K, About PDF) was produced in 2005 and presents screening tools to evaluate and identify brownfield sites that can be economically cleaned up and redeveloped as mixed-income residential and/or mixed-use communities using smart growth principles.

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Coalition Building and Fundraising in the North Macadam District, City of Portland

The city of Portland, Oregon, received designation and support from EPA as a National Brownfields Showcase Community in March 1998.

The grant will support the creation of a Brownfields Smart Growth Handbook for the North Macadam District to facilitate redevelopment incorporating smart growth principles. The project is a collaborative effort between the city's Bureau of Housing and Community Development and the Portland Development Commission. The North Macadam District is a 130-acre area of under-developed land just south of downtown Portland. The site is slated to include a mix of uses that would create housing and employment opportunities in a key location, but redevelopment has been slow in coming due to financial and regulatory obstacles faced by developers.

This project seeks to build an understanding of development issues and to provide assistance with these and other obstacles. The first steps will be to build a coalition of high level representatives of state and federal agencies and foundations and identify financial resources to support the district's infrastructure requirements. The city will then assemble a working group of public agencies, private developers, citizens, and environmental interest groups to create the handbook.

The resulting publication will educate the public as well as provide a menu of financing opportunities. Information on the zoning code and district plan will include a user-friendly discussion of requirements that clearly defines developers' responsibilities. There will also be a discussion of public-private partnerships for fulfilling code and plan expectations. The handbook will include links to financial institutions and loan/grant assistance programs that support smart growth projects, as well as information regarding innovative financing strategies. The publication will be available online.

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