C+S July 2020 Vol. 6 Issue 7 (web)

The promise of brownfields redevelopment is that once-blighted property seen as a liability can be reimagined and repurposed into a community asset that spurs additional investment and serves as a trans- formational catalyst. For the many communities around the country that still grapple with how to address brownfields and potentially con- taminated sites, this vision can seem more like a dream than anything else. Although navigating the road to success can be complex and chal- lenging, the experiences of certain communities stand as a testament to the true potential that brownfields redevelopment can bring. Nestled in the rolling hills and mountains of Southwest Virginia, the Town of Pulaski has become a surprising and seminal example of brownfields redevelopment. Surprising because a town in the heart of Appalachia has defied the odds and seminal because Pulaski’s example has inspired other communities to structure similar brownfields rede- velopment strategies. Since the town’s brownfields program was launched in 2009, Pulaski has seen over $10,000,000 of economic development capital invest- ments by several private companies, tourism developments, and com- munity improvements. These private investments were spurred by the town’s brownfields program and have helped transform Pulaski from a heavy manufacturing and industrial based economy to a vibrant com- mercial and service economy. In over a decade, Pulaski’s team of citizens, leaders, local officials, and consultants have learned a number of important lessons. Three key factors to the success of a brownfields redevelopment program include planning, community buy-in, and ongoing program administration. Significant and Strategic Planning Planning is a crucial step for any community that wants to launch a brownfields redevelopment program and secure financial support from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the form of grants. Early planning is critical and should begin by identifying potential sites that could qualify as brownfields. The number of sites in a com- munity is a factor as is the potential to redevelop those sites. Applying for EPA Brownfields Grants is a time intensive process and increasingly competitive, but worth the effort. These three-year grants were the foundation upon which Pulaski’s program was built. Towns and cities should partner with an established and experienced consul- tant to help them evaluate brownfields sites and complete the grant application process. Transforming Communities Through Brownfields Redevelopment Three Lessons from a Virginia Town’s Decade of Success By Deborah K. Flippo and Shawn Utt

Before. Photo: Draper Aden Associates

After. Photo: Jackson Park Inn

A final planning component is to create partnerships of support in the community. These partnerships can be among community members, business leaders, and others. This broad-based support is a factor in EPA grant evaluation and is necessary to make brownfields redevelop- ment a reality on the ground. It’s important to note, though, that coalitions also can be built across ju- risdictional boundaries. Multiple municipalities can consider a broader partnership to help secure EPA grant funding. A great example is the regional partnership formed by the City of Williamsburg, James City County, York County, and the Greater Williamsburg Partnership in Southeastern Virginia. This coalition secured a $600,000 Community- Wide Brownfields Coalition Assessment Grant from the EPA in 2019. EPA grants often get a lot of attention, but don’t discount available funds from state entities. Pulaski has benefited significantly from state-level support in Virginia, for example. The Virginia Brownfields Assistance Fund, funded by the Virginia General Assembly and admin-


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