Brownfields Basics

What are Brownfields?

A brownfield is: a property of which the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Brownfields are generally abandoned, idle or underused properties, or vacant land where a facility once stood. Often times these properties are considered “blight”.  Examples include:

  • Former gas stations
  • Former dry cleaners
  • Factories
  • Warehouses
  • Salvage yards
  • Mills
  • Abandoned railroads
  • Bulk oil plants
  • Automotive repair shops

Residential land can also be considered brownfields if they meet the definition of above. This is generally the case with vacant properties where redevelopment is planned and there is the perception that the former occupant used or stored hazardous or petroleum products. “Methfields”, properties contaminated by controlled substances such as in the case of meth labs, is also considered a residential example of a brownfield.

Cleanup and reinvestment in these properties has multiple positive effects including reducing blight, returning land to productive use, increasing tax base, protecting human health, protecting the environment, taking development pressures off of green and agricultural space, and revitalizing distressed neighborhoods.