Brownfields 2009: Greenifying in a Big Way!

November 23, 2009

A week ago, I was writing from New Orleans where I had been invited to work with ICMA-TV as their reporter, covering events at Brownfields 2009. This was a whole convention full of people engaged in greenifying from the top on down!

Brownfields, as the name implies, refers to the government programs to encourage developers to go in, take over problem areas, redevelop economically blighted and often environmentally troubled areas within a community. The convention is sponsorred by the United States Environmental Protection Agency along with ICMA which is the International City and County Managers Association. ICMA invites its members to come and meet with leaders in environmental remediation and cleanup, redevelopment and government funding. The result is often clean, sustainable community projects that get underway because all parties met under one roof.

(In fact, I came to view Brownfields 2009 as a sort of "jobs fair" for contractors, developers and city/county managers looking to put people to work and restore blighted areas to tax-paying profitability.)

One of the things that we did with IMCA's convention coverage was ask a question of convention-goers every day. The Question of the Day that I found most interesting was very simple and direct: "Can we afford to redevelop during the current economic downturn?" The answer that I heard was a resounding "YES!"

So many of the areas being offered for redevelopment are environmentally damaged. In fact, I noted several of them were past locations of dry cleaning establishment. (I made a mental note: find an organic dry cleaner or start wearing all cotton clothing. Always.) It turns out that a lot of dry cleaners use a lot of extremely harmful chemicals. This probably isn't a surprise to anyone reading this blog at this website, is it?

But they leave a lot of messes behind when they go out of business. The clean-up is expensive, but having the land lie unproductive, poisoned and often in disrepair can cost the cities and counties more. They want to have the situation remedied.

So the community leaders that I talked with all answered yes to the Question of the Day, knowing that a property that has toxic chemicals and is non-revenue producing for the tax base can be turned around, providing jobs and income for those who do the work, returned investment for developers who have a vision for the area and a complete shift in image and enjoyment for both the people living in the community as well as those who visit.

It was a pleasure attending Brownfields 2009. It is that very sort of thinking that make green businesses and social entrepreneurs exciting to be around and write about.

If you would like to know more, you can visit the IMCA-TV website to see what's going on:

http://www.icmatv.com/

And you can check out the Brownfields website where they buzz about their redevelopment projects 'round the clock:

http://www.brownfieldsconference.org/en/index.aspx


ICMA: Brownfields 2009

November 16, 2009

This week, your blogger here with the Green Business Alliance is on location in New Orleans, attending the Brownfields 2009 Conference which is sponsored by the International City/County Managers Association.

Brownfields is what the U.S. government calls its efforts to revive and renew environmentally damaged (and usually economically challenged) areas and efforts.  In other words, they take a “brown” and deadened location and try to restore it to green, vital life again.

Brownfields 2009 is being held in New Orleans because where else to better what the U.S. government has been able to do with a damaged municipality than in New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina. 

In 2005, the Hurricane roared through, destroying levees that allowed water to rush in and inundate numerous parishes with floodwaters from six to sixteen feet in depth for up to three weeks.  When the waters receded, the damage left behind totaled into the billions of dollars.

City officials told me today that 80% of the city was damaged.  But they are rebuilding and so where better for the Brownfields Convention to be located this year.

Today, I went to Andrew H. Wilson Elementary School in the Broadmoor area.  The school has been serving New Orleans children since 1907, except for the last five years. 

Broadmoor itself includes about 2500 homes, all of which were devastated by floodwaters.  The city intended to raze all of them and make a “green space.”  But the residents wouldn’t give up on their neighborhood.  They refused to let it go.

They organized their own revitalization plan with the idea that they were coming back, but would be better than ever.  They’ve remediated all contamination at Wilson Elementary, cleaned up and rebuilt using sustainable practices and are scheduled to reopen in January 2010. 

The Brownfields 2009 Conference is underway now, which means in another week or so, your local city and county managers will be back in their communities, with more ideas and enthusiasm than ever for helping your business Greenify.  I hope you’ll take advantage of everything they’re learning here in New Orleans this week. 


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