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The Atlanta BeltLine
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Turning Brown Into Green
A brownfield site is “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” This is a broad definition that applies to nearly every property along the Atlanta BeltLine by virtue of the various historical uses around the corridor.
What Do You Do With a Brownfield Site?
In Georgia, individual sites are enrolled in the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) Brownfield Program. Working with EPD and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff as well as Environmental Consultants, a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) is developed that charts the path from contamination to clean.
Why Enroll a Site in the State Program?
The most important feature of the State Program is the ability to offer Limited Liability to prospective purchasers. In other words, if a developer wants to buy a potentially contaminated property, they can enroll the site into the Program prior to purchase and not be held liable for the contamination that occurred prior to the purchase. In addition to getting access to the technical resources offered by the State, the brownfield program may also provide certain tax incentives for property developers and may be required for requests for Federal funding.
Can Any Property Be Enrolled in the State Program?
In the case of the Atlanta BeltLine, the primary reason a property would not be eligible for the Program is in the instances where the City once owned the property. Properties with “circular titles” are not eligible because there is no clear mechanism to demonstrate that the entity who sold and subsequently purchased the property didn’t cause the contamination. This qualifier closes a potential loophole in the Program that might otherwise be taken advantage of.
Properties that aren’t eligible can still take advantage of the State’s Voluntary Remediation Program that was launched in 2009.
How Has the Atlanta BeltLine Taken Advantage of These Programs, and How Much Remediation Has Been Achieved to Date?
Over 123-acres (nearly the size of Atlantic Station) have already been enrolled into the State Program. This has allowed ABI to leverage significant financial resources with our partners at the City of Atlanta including over $650k in EPA Brownfield Remediation Revolving Loan Funds and $60k in Brownfield Assessment Grant Funds. Click here to learn more about the City of Atlanta’s Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Pilot Program. Most importantly, this has strengthened ABI’s relationships with our partners at EPA and EPD who have proven time and again to be unparalleled technical resources.
To date, ABI has remediated more than 40 acres of formerly contaminated land.
What’s Next For the Atlanta BeltLine and Brownfields?
The Redevelopment Plan estimated 1,100 acres of brownfields within the 6,500 acre BeltLine TAD. Current projections suggest this estimate may be very low. Our experience during our first 5 years of implementation has shown that many of the former industrial sites along the Corridor pre-date environmental regulation and record keeping. As a result, sites that “appear” to be clean may in fact have contamination that isn’t revealed until construction begins. Consequently, ABI will likely enroll every eligible property into the State Program.