BALTIMORE, MD (March 14, 2006) – State programs aimed at putting under utilized, polluted and abandoned sites back into productive use have seen a dramatic increase in interest and in the number of properties available for redevelopment. Some 135 properties on 2,193 acres are ready for redevelopment across the state. And another 40 properties are undergoing cleanup.
The Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) has seen its applications for property enrollment more than double since 1996. And MDE is reviewing applications on another 260 properties resting on 4,826 acres. Increasing public awareness of brownfield redevelopment as well as the administrative and legislative reforms instituted by Maryland over the past three years has promoted the increase in participation.
“Fostering smart growth, economic development, healthy and safe communities is part of our mission,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “Maryland’s Voluntary Cleanup Program and the Brownfields Revitalization Program are part of our daily commitment to attaining that goal. Redevelopment of brownfield properties has resulted in reinvestment of $600 million, 4,000 new jobs, and an estimated $500 million increase in the tax base from job creation and/or capital investment. Those are real, bankable results that continue making an indisputable impact on our economy and the lives of Marylanders.”
The VCP provides an economic advantage – for those reusing potentially valuable properties. The VCP adheres to technically credible goals for cleaning up soil and groundwater, while providing - flexibility and economic incentives. Participants in the VCP receive certification that all appropriate clean up measures have been taken. This indemnifies against future liability if the current actions were completed in good faith. By agreeing to regulatory oversight, the VCP participant receives not only the liability protection afforded by the brownfields law, but also liability protection from federal actions and financial assistance from other Maryland agencies.
The program has many new examples of its success. In the Westport section of Baltimore, the former Carr-Lowery property located on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River manufactured glass for 100 years. More recently, the plant has sat idle and served no productive use for the City of Baltimore. Now, a local developer is planning to build townhomes on this property in a manner that is protective of human health. The resulting development will provide an increase in property tax revenue and encourage the revitalization of the area.
Because of Maryland’s rich industrial history, many brownfield sites are located in and around Baltimore. However, these brownfield redevelopment projects are not limited to this area. In Salisbury, a local developer is in the process of constructing River Harbor. This significant “green” residential community is located on a site that was once a marina and on the State Master List for soil and groundwater pollution. But after some follow-up, this project is expected to be one of the state’s newest ‘green’ developments by featuring minimal impacts to its roughly 80 acres of wetlands along the Wicomico River, alternative energy use and natural stormwater barriers.
In Annapolis, the former Parole Shopping Center site will be transformed from an unused shopping mall into a 35-acre mixed use re-development project comprising almost two million square feet of retail, office, hotel and residential floor space. An important phase of this project was recently completed when the groundwater remediation system successfully completed a pilot test and demonstrated that it could effectively address dry cleaning solvent contamination. This is among the first projects in the state to utilize environmental insurance to meets its redevelopment goals.
“MDE is always working to improve its brownfield redevelopment program,” said James Carroll, administrator of MDE’s Environmental Restoration and Redevelopment Programs. “Part of our effort includes educating people on the brownfield redevelopment process.”
As part of this education process, MDE has held two half-day workshops to discuss the VCP. The next step is to hold additional public workshops around the state to help the public and members of the development community understand the benefits of brownfield redevelopment. Luke Wisniewski, MDE’s new Community Redevelopment Coordinator, is leading MDE’s outreach efforts in that matter.
“The VCP is very familiar to many environmental consultants and brownfield developers,” said Wisniewski. “Our goal is to make the financial community, as well as local governments and the general public, familiar with how brownfield redevelopment works to improve and preserve Maryland’s vital resources.”
The Brownfields Revitalization Incentive Program (BRIP), administered by the Maryland Department of Business Economic Development (DBED), is another valuable tool for reviving blighted areas. The program, which was enhanced by the passage of the Brownfields Redevelopment Reform Act in 2004, provides real property tax credits, low interest loans and grants.
“The Brownfields Revitalization Incentive Program sparked efforts to restore industrial sites to usable property that is available and ready for redevelopment,” said DBED Secretary Aris Melissaratos. “And the Brownfields Redevelopment Reform Act has fueled renewed interest in Brownfields redevelopment in Maryland.”
The reform legislation enabled the state to provide assessment and remediation assistance for sites that were previously ineligible. Since January 2003, BRIP has provided assessment and/or remediation assistance and tax credit qualification to 43 sites, resulting in over $450 million of private sector redevelopment investment on more than 430 acres.
More information on properties, the Voluntary Cleanup Program and Brownfields Revitalization Incentive Program can be found on MDE’s website at: www.mde.state.md.us/Programs/LandPrograms/ERRP_Brownfields or by calling 410/537-3440.
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