Yesterday, the Department of Environmental Quality celebrated a Brownfields Program milestone. The agency entered into its 500th agreement, with Rocky Mount officials to redevelop the Historic Douglas Block into a Downtown Event Center.
“It is an honor to partner with the City of Rocky Mount to create a hub in the heart of the city to bring people together,” said DEQ Secretary Michael Regan. “DEQ’s Brownfields Program works to put abandoned properties back into use across North Carolina, creating homes for thriving businesses and community areas that create jobs, boosts the economy, while protecting the environment and improving quality of life.”
The Rocky Mount Downtown Event Center project is an event/recreation/performance center located on nearly eight acres adjacent to the Historic Douglas Block – an area that that began its historic preservation and revitalization through a different 2010 brownfields agreement. Formerly an auto service station and ice company, the site cleanup included addressing impacts from underground and aboveground petroleum storage tanks. Through the brownfields agreement, the City of Rocky Mount conducted environmental assessments, and removed multiple underground fuel storage tanks and contaminated soil from the property under guidance from the Brownfields Program.
“The Brownfields Program has grown each year as more and more developers see the value of recycling abandoned properties into thriving commercial, residential or industrial spaces,” said Michael Scott, director of the Division of Waste Management which houses the Brownfields Program. “Program staff work hand-in-hand with prospective developers to identify the solutions needed to facilitate the redevelopment of these key locations in communities across the state.”
The program, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, works with prospective developers to redevelop an abandoned or idled property where the threat of environmental contamination has hindered its redevelopment (brownfields site). The agreements create special conditions to mitigate contamination and limits the liability of a prospective developer, so a site can be safely redeveloped and put back into productive use. Prospective developers must not have caused or contributed to contamination of the property they wish to redevelop.
Prior to the Brownfields Property Reuse Act of 1997, lenders and financiers of potential redevelopment projects tended to avoid these types of redevelopment projects because of cost uncertainties and liability for environmental contamination cleanup. Since enactment, the law has grown the appeal of these properties for prospective developers.
“Since the first agreement in 1998, the program has helped repurpose nearly 10,000 acres of neglected land. That translates to more than $16 billion of private investment into North Carolina’s economy,” said Brownfields Program Manager Bruce Nicholson.
For more information, visit the North Carolina Brownfields Program’s website at: www.ncbrownfields.org.
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