Community Development:

Reuse of Urban Industrial Sites

RCED-95-172: Published: Jun 30, 1995. Publicly Released: Jul 14, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on brownfields, focusing on: (1) the extent and nature of abandoned industrial sites in distressed urban communities and the barriers brownfields present to redevelopment efforts; and (2) federal initiatives aimed at helping communities overcome obstacles to reusing brownfield sites.

GAO found that: (1) while no national inventory of brownfield sites exist, states have identified thousands of former industrial sites that are abandoned and possibly contaminated; (2) although brownfield sites are usually not contaminated enough to qualify for the Superfund Program, many offer great potential for redevelopment; (3) although developers and lenders have been reluctant to get involved with brownfields due to uncertain liability, governments have created initiatives, such as offering loans and liability protection, to speed up redevelopment efforts; (4) brownfield redevelopment has remained state and local in nature, but federal agencies have begun assisting local governments to reclaim sites; (5) the Environmental Protection Agency has provided demonstration grants to help redevelop industrial properties that were not contaminated or had been cleaned up; (6) the Economic Development Administration has provided financial support for brownfield research and has also acquired practical experience from cleaning up properties it acquired through loan defaults; and (7) the Department of Housing and Urban Development is implementing several brownfield projects through its Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community program.

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