Brownfields Key to Economic Development  

Brownfields Key to Economic Development

In August 2013, GBRC, and the municipalities of Bridgeport and Stratford, were awarded three EPA grants totaling $1.15 million to help develop a Brownfield redevelopment strategy.

Brownfield redevelopment can be a catalyst for economic revitalization in older cities and towns in the United States, especially those whose economic base was fueled by manufacturing in the last century. These older areas, concentrated mainly in the Northeast and northern Midwest have the highest levels of vacant and brownfield properties in the United States. These areas also have very little open space left for development. As the United States transitions to a service-based economy, these cities and towns can develop strategies for economic development by rethinking the use of these industrial properties, especially along major transportation corridors.

Brownfield, West Broad Street, Stratford, CT
Brownfield Site on West Broad Street, Stratford, CT

Here in the Greater Bridgeport Region, the town of Stratford and the city of Bridgeport have some of the highest concentrations of Brownfield sites in the state. These areas, with higher than average unemployment rates and high residential tax burdens, will see both short and long term benefits by developing reuse strategies for these properties. Returning brownfields to productive use also has benefits above and beyond economic development including building stronger, healthier, more livable communities.

GBRC EPA Grant Award for Brownfield Revitilization in August 2013
August 2013 EPA Grant Award (L-R: GBRC Chairman Tom Herrmann, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Congressman Jim Himes, GBRC Executive Director Brian Bidolli, and EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spalding.)

In August 2013, GBRC, and the municipalities of Bridgeport and Stratford, were awarded three EPA grants totaling $1.15 million to help develop a Brownfield redevelopment strategy. In addition, GBRC was awarded a State of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) grant of $275,000. These funds will be utilized to develop a publicly accessible interactive inventory of Brownfield sites to enable our region to plan for the funding and redevelopment of investment-ready sites, identify neighborhood assets that could be leveraged toward site redevelopment and enhance city marketing strategies to attract developers and businesses.

"Brownfield Assessment and Remediation has helped the Town of Stratford tremendously. Thanks to several very hard to get EPA Assessment grants, we are able to take Brownfield properties and have assessments done prior to promoting and marketing the properties to potential owners and developers. This helps us get these properties back on the tax rolls in a much quicker time frame," said Karen Kaiser, Stratford's Director of Economic Development. "Most recently, we have Two Roads Brewing that is a destination craft brew company that brings people into town that visit restaurants and shops. We also have a new 128 unit apartment complex at 1111 Stratford Avenue that will also be an economic driver for the community."

The goal of this project is to prioritize and assess brownfields for clean up and reuse along a linear transit corridor to encourage and promote equitable and affordable housing and enhance the economic competitiveness of these communities. To meet this goal the GBRC will be developing a GIS-based inventory tool that accesses vital geographic information that will allow the public, community organizations, and municipalities to collaborate in building economic development initiatives for brownfield areas along the major transit corridors of I-95 and the Metro-North railway. This application will also facilitate municipalities in delivering timely web-based information to businesses to help them decide to invest in our communities.

The first phase of this three year project is currently underway.

Timeline and Milestones for GBRC Brownfields Redevelopment Project

The Brownfields Working Group (BWG) will be established as a subcommittee of the existing Conservation Technical Advisory Committee (CTAC) and will be comprised of key stakeholders and community based partners who play critical roles in brownfields redevelopment, Transit Oriented development (TOD) efforts, and public and environmental health initiatives that currently exist in Bridgeport and Stratford. The first meeting of the BWG is scheduled for December 2, 2013 at 9:30 AM at Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, CT.

The BWG will be conducting community outreach and informational workshops throughout the next three years. Public feedback will be a vital part of this process. The schedule will be posted on GBRCt.org once it is established.

Environmental site assessments will be conducted by a qualified licensed environmental professional and will include: Site Investigation reports, Comprehensive Assessment reports, and Remedial Alternative Reports, including cost estimates for cleanup.

Once the environmental assessments are complete, GBRC will collaborate with Bridgeport and Stratford to create a Brownfields Redevelopment Strategy for the transit corridor that will examine barriers to clean up and redevelopment from a land use and planning perspective. The plan will examine and recommend tools that each municipality can implement and incorporate as updates to their Plans of Conservation and Development.

Throughout this project, GBRC will track and measure progress and outcomes including green space saved and set aside, housing and mixed use development, potential jobs created by this project, and the projected increased tax revenue from redeveloped properties.

While brownfield reuse along established transit corridors will be a boon to the local economy, there are many other holistic benefits to a coordinated approach of this type, including: reduction of the over 800+ acres of vacant and contaminated properties; health and quality of life improvements within the affected communities; increased job opportunities for residents; and better access to public transit.

Stay tuned about the progress of this project at GBRCt.org/brownfields

Success Story: Two Roads Brewing Co., Stratford, CT

“Some look at the idle, old manufacturing buildings that dot the landscape throughout New England and see blight. When we saw the proud old ‘U.S. Baird Building’, we saw a beautiful symbol of America’s past manufacturing might, and the opportunity to revitalize a great piece of history!” – Two Roads Brewing Co.

Two Roads Brewing Co., Stratford, CT

Standing for over three generations, the old U.S. Baird factory building, located at 1700 Stratford Avenue, was revitalized by the Two Roads Brewing Co., a craft brewery that opened to the public in 2012. Through a collaborative private-public partnership, several barriers to reuse were removed through a grant of $600,000 from the state for brownfield remediation and changes in state liquor laws to allow on-site tastings.

Two Roads currently employs 36 people including the four founding partners and is located along a major bus route, GBT’s Coastal Link, one of the most heavily traveled public transit routes in Connecticut.

Two Roads -  tworoadsbrewing.com
Town of Stratford - townofstratford.com