|From Brownfields to Green Homes and Parks|
|Monday, 06 February 2012 00:00 | Written by Steve Graham | Blog Entry|
Sometimes new business opportunities are found in the most unlikely places—in this case, poor urban communities with contaminated industrial sites. Three federal agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development—are working together on a pilot program to cleanup brownfield sites and create sustainable mixed-use developments with better mass transit. The project is part of the new Office of Sustainable Communities.
It starts with finding five sites around the country for specific pilot projects. Brownfields are typically former industrial sites in urban areas. They require remediation, but not to the same extent as a Superfund site. Nonetheless, the location and environmental hazards deter investment. The federal agencies hope to make housing and transit cheaper and more sustainable in such underserved communities.
Not only do the projects offer plenty of business opportunities and unique ways to help redefine these communities and urban spaces, but they also help the economy at a time we really need it. The $19 in revenues per federal dollar spent and a job for every $13,000 in federal spending. That’s some efficient stimulus—and great for the Earth.
Education is another option for investment and improvement in underserved communities. While charter schools are often criticized for increasing segregation and leaving poor students behind, other organizations—such as ICEF Public Schools in Los Angeles—have targeted poor, urban communities with innovative charter schools.
The Vancouver Olympic organizers offered a great example of turning brownfields into green development. The city transformed a former industrial hub into the Southeast False Creek Olympic Village, which housed athletes during the games. It will later house 16,000 residents, a community center, community gardens, schools, public parks and more.
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