Brownfield redevelopment adds value to cities

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

When designating properties for commercial development, cities have two basic options. They can make way for new projects on undeveloped green space, or they can provide incentives to encourage redevelopment of existing commercial sites.

Increasingly, cities are doing everything they can to accommodate the latter.

And why notω The redevelopment of brownfields is a winning proposition on so many levels:

•    It’s good for the environment, as contaminated sites are cleaned up and green space is preserved, providing oxygen, shade and shelter from the wind.

•    It’s good for a community to replace blighted eyesores.

•    The actual remediation process creates jobs.

•    Property values rise.

•    It cuts down on the city’s impervious surfaces, thereby reducing storm water runoff and sewage overflows.

For years, naysayers thought Milwaukee’s investments in its Menomonee River Valley was pure folly, shooting good money down a blighted, hopeless drain. To be sure, it often seemed as such.

However, the city’s investments in the valley are beginning to pay off. In spades. From the west end at Miller Park to the east end of the Sixth Street Bridge, the city is seeing a rebirth in its industrial corridor.

There still is much work to do, as you’ll read in this year’s Small Business Times Commercial Real Estate & Development Book. The theme for this year’s book is “Greenbacks and Brownfields.”

This special report includes a chart of nearly 300 brownfield sites scattered throughout southeastern Wisconsin. Most of them are abandoned former industrial sites. Some are tax-delinquent burdens.

In the right hands, and viewed through the right prisms, these brownfields can be reborn and transformed into thriving, contributing sites of commerce.

National brownfield experts Robert Colangelo and Peter Hollingworth believe these sites are opportunities.

Both Colangelo and Hollingworth were invited to be keynote speakers at the fourth annual Small Business Times Commercial Real Estate & Development Conference on Nov. 9 at the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. Their insights are featured in this publication.

Colangelo says developers need to take a closer look at brownfield sites and dream of their potential. Hollingworth is an expert at making brownfield redevelopment economically feasible.

Of course, they’re preaching to the choir when it comes to Richard Carlson, who transformed the abandoned Allis-Chalmers Corp. plant into the majestic $50 million Summit Place office complex.

Looking back, Carlson said many commercial Realtors thought he was a “lunatic” when he envisioned Summit Place.

If so, the region needs more “lunatics” such as Carlson, who also was a member of the conference panel and is profiled in this special report.

Carlson said the Summit Place project would not have happened if he hadn’t received a brownfield redevelopment grant.

That’s where the public sector comes in. As commissioner of the Milwaukee Department of City Development, Richard “Rocky” Marcoux is a boisterous booster of brownfield redevelopment.

The region also could use more public officials with vision, such as of outgoing Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, who is this year’s recipient of the Robert B. Bell Sr. Best Public Partner Award.

Antaramian serves as the president of the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Brownfield Association. He also is a member of the Brownfields Study Group for the state, which was launched in the early 90s as a result of efforts by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to examine the challenges of brownfield redevelopment.

This special report documents how public/private partnerships can create real value and wealth in communities.

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