The Healthy Makeover: Turning Brownfields into Greens and Greenfields

By Mishkovsky, Nadejda | Public Management, June 2010 | Go to article overview

The Healthy Makeover: Turning Brownfields into Greens and Greenfields


Mishkovsky, Nadejda, Public Management


In 2001, while Lynchburg, Virginia, was renovating its local baseball stadium, the Parks and Recreation Department was looking for a park site in the nearby Fort Hill neighborhood, which was underserved by recreational facilities. Staff identified two blighted parcels adjoining the stadium. They viewed the fact that both were brownfields as an opportunity to transform them from a health risk into a healthy destination.

In 2003, the city used its power of eminent domain to claim the larger, 16.9-acre property--known as the Allen-Morrison property--for its new park. The property had been in industrial use since the early 1900s, but crumbling structures were all that remained from that era. It had at times been home to a farm wagon manufacturer, a metal sign-making plant, a chemical company, and a veneer factory.

That same year, a new nonprofit organization called Lynchburg Grows purchased the second property, which lies between the future park site and the stadium. The 6.5-acre site had once been used to cultivate roses and was still home to nine brick greenhouses and other buildings. Lynchburg Grows wanted to turn the existing facilities into an urban farm and education center.

Lynchburg Grows and the city simultaneously applied to the state's voluntary remediation program for their respective properties, and both were accepted. Through the parks and recreation department partnering with the engineering department, the city took the lead on redeveloping the two brownfields sites--with little initial success. "I had no idea what a brownfield was," admits parks and recreation director, Kay Frazier. It wasn't just Frazier--no one in the city had experience guiding properties through the complex brownfields remediation process.

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Then, after several years of playing catch-up on federal and state brownfields procedures, the city successfully put the two adjoining properties through the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Voluntary Remediation Program, which funded the environmental assessment. Other city departments have since started collaborating to advance the initiative. "We'll be sending a cross-departmental group to the next national brownfields conference, representing engineering, planning, and economic development," notes Frazier.

The next phase of the park's development will focus on the demolition of some buildings and the deconstruction of others in order to minimize the amount of usable materials dumped in the landfill. The former Allen-Morrison property, selected as one of 16 EPA Brownfields Sustainability Pilots in 2008, received federal funding to create the hybrid plan.

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