What is a brownfield, and why is it important

The following was written by Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance partner Amy Clickner, CEO of the Lake Superior Community Partnership in Marquette, and was published in The Mining Journal

Amy 2What is a brownfield?  It’s a term that gets thrown around quite a bit, but for a lot of people defining exactly what a brownfield is or how to deal with them can be difficult. In the simplest terms, a brownfield is a site where there is real or perceived environmental contamination. In Michigan, there is the added definition that brownfield can also apply to properties that have blight or historical significance, whether or not there is real or perceived environmental contamination. As we know, defining an issue is only half the battle. What do we do once we define it? That’s where the Marquette County Brownfield Authority (MCBA) comes in.

The MCBA works throughout Marquette County and in cooperation with other established brownfield authorities, such as the Marquette Brownfield Authority and Negaunee Township Brownfield Authority, to address brownfield sites around our community. They address them in a number of ways. In some cases blight is completely removed through demolition, when possible, a development plan, or brownfield plan, is put into place with a developer who wishes to put a property back into use. Such is the case with projects like the Northern Michigan Bank building in Ishpeming or the Teal Lake Senior Living Community in Negaunee. A brownfield plan is a tool that allows the developer to assess, remediate and restore the property to a pre-contamination or blight state. This is all extremely important from a community standpoint as it allows for a previously obsolete property to be returned to full use while preserving undeveloped land and preventing sprawl. There can be a significant benefit to the developer and the community through the use of the brownfield program.

Since its formation in 2010, the MCBA has secured an Environmental Protection Agency grant for $400,000 to assist with site assessment work and has approved five brownfield plans. As a part of their ongoing outreach, the MCBA is partnering with the Lake Superior Community Partnership, Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Envirologic to hold an informational session, “Harnessing Incentives for Economic Development.” The session will take place on Thursday, May 12th from 7:45 AM – 12:00 PM at NMU University Center. Topics will include brownfield incentives, collaborative community development and non-traditional and gap financing. A light breakfast and coffee is included. This seminar is open to the public, the cost is $10 for LSCP partners and $15 for non-partners. You can register or get more information by visitingwww.marquette.org or emailing Caralee Swanberg, LSCP VP of Economic Development (cswanberg@marquette.org).

Brownfield Redevelopment is just one example of the many ever changing local, state and federal tools that are available to assist in economic development for both private businesses and public entities. At the LSCP we are committed to staying on the cutting edge of all of these programs and being able to connect you to the resources that you may need to help you make your projects happen when they are appropriate. Please contact us to find out more and to see if there’s anything in the tool kit that may fit your project.


Amy Clickner, CEO, writes a bi-weekly column for the Mining Journal.

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