Brownfields are property with a determined contaminate, hazardous material or pollutant which makes it difficult to be redeveloped for public or private use. A brownfield in a successful business or residential community has the obvious attraction of location but liability and cleanup costs most often deter potential developers from pursuing such properties.
By limiting liability to a new owner, as well as providing tax incentives, Federal and state programs now make the cleanup task more appealing, which produces both environmental and economic benefits. The Georgia Brownfield program removes the future environmental liability from a new owner/developer and provides tax incentives to help recover costs for the investigation and the cleanup by “freezing” the assessed value of the property for up to ten years or until costs have been recovered. So as the property value increases, the owner benefits in tax savings.
Turning an unused property into a thriving business helps the economic vitality of the community as well. For example, in 2012, McWhirter Realty Partners purchased an abandoned convenient store in Athens, Georgia, that had been vacant for ten years due to a tremendous amount of contamination. The location, within the 5-Points neighborhood of Athens and less than a half-mile from the University of Georgia campus, was redeveloped following a plan successfully approved by Athens-Clarke County and the State’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD). Today, the site is home to Grindhouse Killer Burgers.
Another example of a successful brownfield project is the former City of Norcross landfill. In the 1970’s the City of Norcross closed its landfill located on Reps Miller Road in the heart of Peachtree Corners. A partnership, led by McWhirter Realty Partners, acquired the 9 acre property for a future industrial development. After holding the land for many years, the company turned its focus to redeveloping the property for residential. With cooperation from the State EDP and geotechnical and environmental consultants, McWhirter Realty Partners removed all of the landfill and successfully rezoned the property for 90 townhome units. Greenwood Townhomes continues to thrive on the property today.
What’s more, an EPA study found that residential property values increased by up to 12 percent within a one-mile radius of a brownfield assessment or cleanup. And removing abandoned property can also reduce the prevalence of crime, loitering and vandalism.
For more information on brownfield redevelopment in Georgia visit the EPD of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
 Georgia Brownfields Program