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State’s Efforts Give Once-Blighted Sites A Second Life

January 7, 2013 : Worcester Business Journal, by Timothy P. Murray and Marty Jones

From historic mill buildings stretched along our rivers to vacant properties in our downtown centers, Massachusetts is home to brownfields in need of critical redevelopment. Through our combined experiences promoting economic development, we’re committed to revitalizing these contaminated sites to increase housing, business growth and job creation.

Through a collaborative model, the Brownfields Support Team (BST) Initiative, we’re targeting brownfields cleanup and partnering with municipalities to transform once stalled, blighted parcels into prime development opportunities. And we’re experiencing tremendous results, including an improved environment and regional economic growth.

First launched in 2008, the BST has coordinated 24 state, local and federal agencies over the last several years to tackle some of the state’s most complex brownfields. By working closely with key stakeholders, including legislators and municipal leaders, we have delivered more than $18 million to accelerate cleanup, streamline processes to overcome technical roadblocks, and reuse more than 300 acres of valuable property for community and economic development.

For example, in Worcester, the BST assisted with the cleanup and demolition of properties within the South Worcester Industrial Park, 11 acres of land that will be redeveloped in the coming years.

Last year, in Grafton, the town celebrated the opening for Mill Villages, part of the 35-acre redevelopment project on the former Fisherville Mill Property. And in Gardner, we’re working with the city to redevelop the Mill Street Corridor into a clean- and green-tech district.

Similar success is underway in other BST communities, including Fall River, Haverhill, and Springfield.

In both our roles, we often hear about the need to balance environmental protection with economic needs. Fortunately, these are not mutually exclusive goals. By increasing collaboration across state agencies and working with stakeholders, we have made brownfields reclamation a priority. With all three levels of government working together, once blighted and contaminated parcels are becoming launching pads for community renewal and business growth.

Massachusetts has been recognized nationally for the success of the BST model. Most recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency noted our strategy in redeveloping complex brownfields sites and awarded the commonwealth $6.75 million. This is a testament to the effective approach we’re using in our communities, and we’re extending the BST strategy to more cities and towns, including Fitchburg.

We look forward to engaging more communities to transform brownfields into development-ready parcels and spur housing and new jobs.


© Copyright 2013 Worcester Business Journal.