Breaking Ground On Brownfields

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Breaking Ground On Brownfields — The Series

By Emma Kennedy · 2023-10-31 17:11:09 -0400 ·

Editor's note: Law360 Real Estate Authority's Breaking Ground On Brownfields series launched on October 31. 

In some towns it's the rundown farm where workers once unknowingly doused the soil with harmful pesticides. In others it's the former school building riddled with asbestos that no developer has dared to touch. It could be a shuttered gas station, abandoned factory, or an old rail yard.

However "dirty" these sites may look in different areas of the country, they're an increasingly attractive proposition for developers.


The Series

Brownfields present a significant opportunity in the face of pressures like the housing crisis, climate change and land scarcity. See our reporting on the challenges, successes, opportunities and pain points shaping brownfields redevelopment.

The Policy

Our brownfield policy tracker provides an overview of how pending policies and laws are advancing across the country.

The Basics

For newcomers, brownfields and the policies and economic incentives surrounding remediation and redevelopment can be just as confusing as the land is contaminated. Read our breakdown of the basics.

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A brownfields cleanup site is seen in Biddeford, Maine. In an upcoming series, Law360 will examine the development opportunities offered by brownfields around the country and the legal complexities involved with working on them. (Derek Davis/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Brownfields — essentially defined as any site with enough potential industrial contamination in its previous life to have complicated its redevelopment — present a significant opportunity in the face of pressures like the housing crisis, climate change and land scarcity, according to attorneys.

But as anyone who dabbles in the world of contaminated property soon learns, it can be a rabbit hole of complexity with considerations of liability, ever-changing public policy, climate change, environmental justice, community engagement, and the big one: financing.

With so many factors converging at once — and anywhere between 450,000 and 1 million brownfield sites nationwide poised for reuse — Law360's Real Estate Authority spent months talking to attorneys, environmental experts and brownfield developers to analyze the model's challenges, successes, opportunities and pain points.

Check back regularly to see Law360's latest in-depth reporting on brownfields.

Brownfield Policy Plays Catch-Up As National Priorities Shift
By Emma Kennedy | November 7, 2023
While the framework for regulating, incentivizing and funding contaminated site cleanup has remained relatively untouched — and successful — for decades, new concerns are forcing an evolution in brownfield redevelopments toward a means to address growing demand for affordable housing, environmental justice and climate resilience.

From Brownfield To Affordable Housing: Funding An Evolution
By Grace Dixon | November 14, 2023
Amid a housing crunch bearing heavily on low-income Americans, some developers are turning to conveniently situated brownfields as possible homes for affordable housing projects. Experts told Law360 that for those willing to be creative, a recent influx of new funding might just be enough to overcome the higher costs associated with potentially contaminated parcels.

The Past And Future Of Brownfield Developments
By Brent Godwin | November 21, 2023
Turning real estate that previously held heavy industry or manufacturing facilities isn't easy work, but it is an integral part of economic development, especially in many cities where land for new housing or other uses are increasingly hard to find, said Gerald Pouncey, chair of Morris Manning & Martin LLP.

3 Pitfalls To Avoid When Steering A Brownfield Redevelopment
By Charlie Innis | November 28, 2023
A real estate deal or project involving contaminated land can end up far messier than it needs to be, especially if the developer's legal team isn't aware of how their work can go wrong. Here are a few of the biggest pitfalls to look out for when advising clients on such a project.

How PFAS Could Upend Brownfield Remediation
By Emma Kennedy | December 5, 2023
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's pending designation of PFAS as a hazardous substance under environmental cleanup laws would be a historic move, but it has left brownfield developers and attorneys reeling with questions about how it affects their projects — both in the past and in the future.

Wash. Affordable Housing Developers Dig Into 'Dirty Dirt'
By Emma Kennedy | December 12, 2023
In Washington, where affordable housing and land scarcity have collided, it took attorneys and advocates seven years to craft a brownfield program they say solves both.

Retiring EPA Official On Brownfield Successes, Challenges
By Emma Kennedy | January 9, 2024
As developers stand poised to continue the momentum of brownfield redevelopment into 2024, an outgoing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency leader sees public-private partnerships — and the stepping back of local government interference in federal funding — as keys to maintaining the upward trajectory.

Brownfields To Brightfields: Landfills Are Primed For Solar
By Emma Kennedy | January 16, 2024
The phrase "one man's trash is another man's treasure" is proving quite literal in the world of brownfields, where many capped landfills generally devoid of redevelopment opportunities have finally found their niche.

Liability Assumption CEO Talks Brownfield Rehabilitation
By Isaac Monterose | January 23, 2024
Breathing life back into contaminated land comes with risks, but liability assumption companies have developed that risk into a business opportunity that clears not only environmental concerns but regulatory ones as well.

Brownfield Advocates Welcome Enviro Justice Initiative
By Emma Kennedy | January 30, 2024
As brownfield remediation emerges as a prime opportunity for developers and the impacts of the Biden Administration's Justice40 initiative become clearer, environmental justice advocates hope to steer transformative projects in overlooked neighborhoods.

Backend Tax Credit Boosts NY Brownfield Redevelopments
By Donald Morrison | February 6, 2024
New York's use of a backend tax credit for brownfield remediation and redevelopment helps push projects across the finish line, incentivizing developers to pursue and quickly finish projects addressing contamination throughout the state.

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