On May 28, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced that the city will receive $400,000 in federal funding to continue its efforts to clean and redevelop contaminated properties - known as brownfields - as part of a long-term effort to redevelop old industrial and commercial sites in the city.
Wilmington is among 171 communities nationwide to receive 264 grants totaling $67 million and one of only eight NC communities to receive assessment grants.
The city also received $400,000 in grants in 2011 and used those funds to inventory more than 60 potential brownfields sites and to conduct environmental assessments. The 2011 grant program is winding down and this renewed funding will allow the program to proceed without losing momentum, with a focus on redevelopment of northern downtown and the southside area.
According to Phil Prete, who is overseeing the brownfields effort for the city, developers often shy away from brownfield properties because of the uncertainty of potential clean up and liability costs. These grant funds help identify what needs to be cleaned up to comply with federal environmental regulations, which removes much of the uncertainty for potential developers. “Redevelopment of brownfield properties will reduce environmental hazards while putting sites that are abandoned or underutilized to productive use, thereby increasing the tax base, stimulating revitalization and providing jobs,” said Prete.
A brownfields site is an abandoned or under-used property where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by potential environmental contaminants. Redeveloping these sites is an example of the city’s current focus on infill and redevelopment of properties already inside the city limits as another way to stimulate economic development. Along with encouraging the reuse of existing buildings and developing the few remaining vacant parcels in town, the city is looking at existing regulations to find ways to make development easier.
Visit wilmingtonnc.gov/brownfields for more information on brownfields.