A brownfield is a parcel of real estate that is abandoned or inactive, or may not be operated at its appropriate use. The expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of the property is complicated because the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, a contaminant, petroleum, or a petroleum product poses a risk to human health and the environment (per Indiana Code 13-11-2-19.3).
Indiana Brownfields Program
In 2005, the Indiana General Assembly charged the Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) with implementing the Indiana Brownfields Program (per Senate Enrolled Act 578, referenced as Public Law 235-2005 [PDF]). Some IDEM project managers are housed within the Indiana Brownfields Program to provide environmental technical support for the program. IFA’s financial, legal, and technical review staff within the program work in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other Indiana agencies to assist communities with brownfield redevelopment.
Challenges and Benefits
Fear of liability is one of the many challenges associated with brownfield redevelopment. Prospective purchasers are often unwilling to assume the risk of undetermined cleanup costs because the potential environmental liability at these properties is unknown. Thus, the properties remain idle. However, as undeveloped land continues to be lost to development, there is a need to redevelop and reuse brownfields. They often have buildings, infrastructure, and access to transportation resources that can lower potential developers’ costs. Handled appropriately, brownfields may become assets instead of liabilities.
The redevelopment of brownfield properties is important because communities benefit from rejuvenated neighborhoods, an increased tax base, reduced threats to human health and the environment, and less blight. Eyesores such as old, abandoned corner gas stations or sprawling, dilapidated factories often can be transformed into productive commercial and industrial parks, vibrant recreation areas, residential developments, or other needed amenities.
Successful redevelopment is the result of local champions who identify opportunities and embrace partnerships. The IFA facilitates sustainable brownfields redevelopment by working closely with communities and other stakeholders to explore available state and federal assistance to address specific liability and funding issues. The IFA recognizes local desires to level the playing field between developing brownfields and greenfields (previously undeveloped areas) and will continue to evaluate its brownfield incentives to assist communities in meeting those needs.