Compelling Reasons for Promoting Brownfield Development in YOUR Community
Here are some compelling reasons (in no particular order) for bringing brownfields back to productive use:
- Brownfield reuse may contribute to a reduction in the need for greenfield development. For many years, communities grew by building out. Industrial/commercial parks and new residential developments often were built on greenfields outside the municipal core area. By reusing brownfields and development intensification, the pressure on greenfield development may be reduced. Possible benefits include urban renewal and keeping greenfields available as natural habitats, or for outdoor recreation or agriculture.
- Municipal services infrastructure, for the most part, already exists in Brownfield areas. The required investment for new infrastructure is thereby reduced (when compared to greenfield sites) for brownfields.
- Remediation of a site, in conjunction with suitable Risk Management Measures (RMMs), appropriately provides tools to manage contaminants from past use of the site, making our communities safer places to live and work.
- When used as part of a downtown intensification program, revitalizing brownfields ultimately can help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If a downtown brownfield is cleaned up and used for residential purposes, it provides people with housing that may be closer to their workplaces, allowing them to use transit, cycling or walking instead of cars. This reduces GHGs from vehicle emissions.
- Redevelopment of brownfields frequently increases the value of adjacent properties because it removes what are often seen as eyesores – dilapidated, vandalized buildings that may pose a danger to people who frequent them. Redevelopment of these areas can act as a catalyst seeding the transformation of entire neighbourhoods.
- A property that has been put to higher value use generates more municipal revenue than does an abandoned one. Because unused brownfields are low-value use properties, they don’t generate much tax revenue for the municipality. Re-use increases their values, which then increases revenues for municipal governments. Even if the municipality provides short-term property tax incentives, the eventual increase in revenue more than compensates for the short-term foregone revenue. This makes more money available to add amenities and improve services for residents.
- Redeveloped brownfields can be a home for community amenities and enhance the public realm. Some municipalities, such as Orillia, ON, have redeveloped brownfields as recreation centres, providing a community focus and increased facilities for residents. Even if a brownfield is turned into a park (something that is often considered an interim use), it improves the public realm by providing green- and play-space for those living in the area.
- Cleaning up and redeveloping a brownfield for business use (commercial, retail or industrial) can result in increased employment opportunities, better-paying jobs, or both, in the community. This raises the standard of living and helps people acquire more marketable job skills, as well as reducing unemployment. Ultimately, it contributes to the health and growth of the Canadian economy.
- When used as wind- or solar-energy farms, brownfields help us move to clean, renewable energy sources. Case in point: SunMine, a fully reclaimed Teck mine in Kimberley, BC, which was converted, with the company’s support, to a solar-energy farm and now sells power to the BC Hydro grid, reducing the province’s reliance on non-renewable energy.
- After remediation and, if required, the implementation of suitable RMMs, brownfields can be redeveloped to provide safe, affordable residences for Canadians. The federal government through its National Housing Strategy is aiming to address our housing crisis. Brownfields play an important role in providing a potential solution to our housing needs.
- Not all brownfields are above ground. Canada has many former harbours and waterways in need of clean-up. Projects such as the Wabigoon River at Grassy Narrows, ON and the Hamilton harbour are having a positive impact on human health and the environment, and are providing economic benefits for neighbouring communities and their residents.
- Brownfield reuse supports many of the federal government’s priorities, including reducing GHG emissions, homelessness and inner-city poverty. These priorities also are part of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals for 2030 so, by returning brownfields to productive use, we not only help Canada; we also make the entire world a better place.