Generally, a brownfield is a property where redevelopment is complicated due to actual or potential environmental contamination.
Indiana defines a brownfield as:
- a parcel of real estate that is abandoned or inactive; or may not be operated at its appropriate use;
- and on which expansion, redevelopment, or reuse is complicated;
- because of the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, a contaminant, petroleum, or a petroleum product that poses a risk to human health and the environment.
The Indiana Brownfields Program was created by 2005 legislation (Senate Enrolled Act 578) that merged the brownfield financial and technical review programs into one program under the management of the IFA, thereby combining existing brownfield resources to better assist communities with brownfield redevelopment. The Indiana Brownfields Program works in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other Indiana agencies to assist communities in making productive use of their brownfield properties.
Fear of liability is one of the many challenges associated with brownfield redevelopment. Because the potential environmental liability at these properties is unknown, prospective purchasers are often unwilling to assume the risk of undetermined cleanup costs. Thus, the properties remain idle. However, as undeveloped land continues to disappear, there is a need to redevelop and reuse these properties that often have buildings, infrastructure, and access to transportation resources that can lower the costs to potential developers. Handled appropriately, brownfields may become assets versus liabilities.
The redevelopment of brownfield sites benefits communities by rejuvenating neighborhoods, increasing the tax base, mitigating threats to human health and the environment, and reducing 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 use or other needed amenities.
Successful redevelopment is the result of local champions who identify opportunities and embrace partnerships. The Indiana Brownfields Program is one partner that can work one-on-one with communities and other stakeholders to explore available state and federal assistance to address specific liability and funding issues to facilitate sustainable brownfields redevelopment. The state recognizes local desires to level the playing field between brownfields and greenfields development and will continue to evaluate its brownfield incentives to assist communities in meeting those needs.