Brownfield developments, sites or buildings that have environmental contamination, are not usually the most desirable projects. However, a web site called Brownfield Listings is giving these projects a new lease on life.
A small town in Missouri wanted to convert an abandoned school into a community center and emergency shelter. It put out three requests for proposals for their brownfield development to find contractors and designers willing to work on the site that was contaminated with lead paint, asbestos, and mold. Even with grant money in hand, no one was willing to help the town reach its goal. Town officials wondered what to do next.
A chance meeting at a conference in Chicago led the town to posting its project on Brownfield Listings. The site, like Facebook for contaminated sites and buildings, gave the project the exposure it needed, and soon six proposals were being turned in to help with the project.
“Brownfield Listings is a gold mine for struggling rural communities like ours all over the country—to me, this project, a pilot for our area, is a testimony for rural communities that are struggling,” says Vannessa Frazier, Executive Director of Howardville Community Betterment.
The site offers a lot of flexibility for project teams and those willing to work on these damaged sites. Sites can be posted as projects searching for teams to help them. Or professionals can post their resumes online and projects can seek out who they want to work with. Sites can be posted for sale, as well, with interested buyers able to find out all they need to know. The service is offered at no cost to the users.
The site was founded by attorney Dan French, who has experience in environmental due diligence. “We realized there was no real redevelopment channel, nothing to serve the brownfield real estate ecosystem as a whole. So, we built an off-the-shelf tool that was available to everyone,” French said.
“We’re trying to frontload the environmental due diligence,” French said, “streamlining the process by making sure parties owning brownfield property get real looks from buyers that know the specific condition of the site and what’s been done so far.”
“Brownfields is a subsector of real estate that moves a little differently. There are always extra concerns when dealing with these old properties, always some extra wrinkles.”
The site brings exposure to projects that might not ever see the light of day, since this is such a specialized field. It is bringing dreams into reality in many locations, and helping the environment as well.