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Brownfields; Redeveloping Environmentally Distressed Properties
By Harold J. Rafson and Robert N. Rafson
Published by McGraw-Hill 1999
Revitalizing underutilized industrial sites---how it’s done.
The authors clearly present the factors that, on one hand, allow industrial and commercial property eyesores to exist, and on the other hand, those factors that can redevelop them into valuable modern real estate. The NST Engineers, Inc. reviewers have participated in brownfields remediation designs and in the development of estimated costs for remediation, sometimes extending decades into the future. Brownfields are, according to an EPA definition, “…abandoned, idled, or underused industrial and commercial sites where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination that can add cost, time and uncertainty to a redevelopment project.”
A few decades ago industrialists eyeing real estate for acquisition would be concerned about the use they could foresee, the asking price, zoning potential, the neighborhood, and a few other particulars. Rarely were they deeply concerned about what had gone on at the property in past years. Now, one of the first things a prospective buyer wants to know is “what might have gone on here in past years that has resulted in contamination of structures, the grounds, subsurface, or any water bodies.” Property owners have similar concerns, but they have more information. So that both buyers and sellers wonder what magnitude of environmental remediation costs would be required for various redevelopment projects. The authors take the reader through the major considerations of both buyer and seller. They treat both the private and municipal redeveloper.
NST Engineers found that the authors' case studies, though largely drawn from their Chicago experiences, emphasize the careful planning and execution steps required in redevelopment anywhere. Based on data from less than 200 sites, the cost of brownfields redevelopment has been estimated to be just under $60,000 per acre. Cleanup of contamination, where it occurs, has been estimated at 8% of the total cost of redevelopment. The authors make an excellent point that much more cooperation is needed between interested parties to expand brownfields redevelopment. Venture groups are needed consisting of environmental scientists and engineers, capital providers, insurance specialists, real estate experts, and an experience project management team.
Not to be forgotten is “due diligence”. For a brownfields purchaser this means an in-depth analysis of the physical, economic, and legal conditions of any property in question. The authors describe how this analysis must have much more depth to it than the due diligence involved with purchase of an uncompromised industrial property. Federal, state, and local environmental officials, and governmental officials must appreciate the importance of rejuvenating unused brownfields as opposed to converting more fertile farms to industrial properties. And finally those officials must have the will to find ways to make a remediation happen. Individuals in all of the above occupations are well-advised to read this book.
As a model of an up-to-date state initiative to hasten brownfields remediation, the authors provide the details of the Illinois Pollution Control Board’s Tiered Approach to Corrective Action Objectives (“TACO”).
To find out more about this book, or to order it online, just enter its ISBN (same as the ASN) number: 0070527687 in the Amazon.com search box.