While many high-profile properties have been cleaned and
transformed into productive sites through the state's brownfields
program, there likely is still much work to be done, a state
environmental official said. And at least one Oklahoma city is
looking to capitalize on the program.
"There is a large number of sites left, if you include all the
buildings that have asbestos and lead paint," said Rita R. Kottke,
remediation programs manager for the Oklahoma Department of
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started encouraging
states to create brownfield programs in the mid-1990s, the Office of
Management and Budget estimated that there were 450,000 brownfields
nationwide, she said.
"This number represented known, defunct industrial sites," Kottke
said. "That was prior to indoor asbestos and petroleum (former gas
stations) being added as brownfield contaminants."
Currently, nationwide there are millions of brownfields that need
to be cleaned up, she said.
Just a few of the success stories in Oklahoma City include
Bricktown, Skirvin Hilton Hotel, Dell call center and the Devon
headquarters, Kottke said.
"There have been so many," she said.
Bricktown, for example, was underused for decades before Oklahoma
City decided to redevelop it, Kottke said.
"It was a lengthy process since there were so many small sites
that were consolidated into the application," she said. "Oklahoma
City Urban Renewal broke the area into large parcels for the
The investigation and cleanup took about seven years.
The Skirvin Hilton Hotel, closed in 1988, deteriorated for 16
years prior to Oklahoma City finding the capital and private
partners to abate asbestos and ensure that the redevelopment moved
forward, Kottke said.
In 2005, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality loaned
the city the funding to abate the asbestos.
"Once the building was clean, the developer moved forward on the
revitalization of the historic hotel," Kottke said.
The Skirvin Hilton reopened to huge fanfare in 2007.
The site of the Devon tower had underground storage tanks and
contamination associated with petroleum, Kottke said.
Tulsa, meanwhile, is working to use the brownfields program as an
economic development tool, said Clay Bird, Tulsa economic
"We almost never had a program; it was more reactionary in that
we'd respond when people called to ask about what we had to offer,"
Bird said. "Now, what we are doing is focusing on using it
(brownfields program) as an economic development strategy to come up
with a playbook. It is still evolving."
The program could stimulate economic growth and development by
acting as a method for tax-exempt financing and a way to attract
grant dollars, Bird said.
Although Tulsa is revitalizing its brownfields program, there
have been several successful property renovations, Kottke said. They
include the BOK Center, the Mayo Hotel and the Brady Village