Recap: 2013 National Brownfields Conference

The 2013 National Brownfields Conference came to Atlanta on May 15 of this year, and the Atlanta BeltLine was a prominent presence. The Conference convenes every 18 months and is the largest event in the nation focusing on environmental revitalization and economic redevelopment. Brownfields are defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as property that has a presence of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants. These hazards create complications during the expansion, redevelopment, and reuse of brownfields, necessitating careful rehabilitation of the land. Read more about the recent grant that the Atlanta BeltLine received from the EPA for brownfield clean-up.

With brownfield remediation being such a significant component of the Atlanta BeltLine project, the Conference featured Ryan Gravel as speaker for the Opening Plenary Session. Gravel’s Master’s Thesis at Georgia Tech provided the vision for what has now evolved into the Atlanta BeltLine. Thousands of attendees had the opportunity to hear about how this vision can be applied to other projects around the country.

Ryan Gravel, Atlanta BeltLine visionary
Ryan Gravel, the visionary behind the Atlanta BeltLine, gave the Opening Plenary Speech at the 2013 National Brownfields Conference. Photo credit: National Brownfields Conference.

City of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, also a member of the Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. Board of Directors, participated in the Revitalization Roundtable, discussing sustainability, community revitalization, and equitable growth in brownfield redevelopment. Lee Harrop, Atlanta BeltLine Program Management Officer, introduced the project as a component of Atlanta’s brownfield cleanup and greenspace creation strategies in two separate panels. Other members of Atlanta BeltLine staff played integral roles in Conference and EPA initiatives, including Chief Operating Officer Lisa Gordon, and Director of Community Engagement Beth McMillan.

The Environmental Justice Caucus and the Healthfields workshop were two such initiatives.

“Bringing Health Care to the BeltLine is a marvelous idea that helps our social infrastructure and connects jobs,” said Camilla Warren, Local Coordinator for the 2013 Brownfields Conference. “A priority on this additional aspect of healthy and sustainable living demonstrates an even stronger commitment to public health and allows EPA and other agencies to provide additional support to make that happen in the communities that need it.”

Tours provided attendees with a first-hand look at the results of brownfield remediation and revitalization, with a bus ride around the Atlanta BeltLine’s 22-mile loop, a tour of Ponce City Market, and a peek at the future development of Southwest Atlanta with the Revitalization Action Tour. Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. team members Kevin Burke, Heather Hussey-Coker, and Meghan Injaychock lent their knowledge and expertise to these tours.

National Brownfields Conference 2013
In addition to presentations, conference attendees had the chance to take a tour of the Atlanta BeltLine, participate in mobile workshops, and more. Photo credit: National Brownfields Conference.

What is so significant about the Atlanta BeltLine’s brownfield cleanup? On the Eastside Trail alone, over 1,700 tons of contaminated soil were removed over 2.25 miles. The Historic Fourth Ward Park was 17 acres of industrial wasteland until it was converted into the functional and recreational greenspace that it is today. These projects are representative of the work that will be undertaken on the rest of the Atlanta BeltLine corridor. Brownfield investment also creates jobs and increases nearby property values.

Click here to read more about environmental progress and the Atlanta BeltLine.

before, after, future - top of Three Tree Hill
The Eastside Trail is pictured above in its brownfield state before construction. 1,700 tons of contaminated soil were removed during construction before opening the 2.5 mile multi-use path to the public. The rendering shows what the future corridor will look like with transit from the top of Three Tree Hill.

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