Image Source: beataT1i. Source License: CC BY-ND 2.0. Adaptations: cropped.

A “Brownfield” is land that was previously used for industrial or commercial uses that is or may be contaminated with hazardous waste or pollution. Brownfields typically have redevelopment potential as other land uses once the contamination is cleaned to certain minimum standards. Brownfield redevelopment is often paired with adaptive reuse strategies that preserve architecturally significant industrial structures.

A “Greyfield” is land that is underutilized as a result of economic obsolescence. Greyfield sites are typically failed or struggling retail malls or other commercial uses, and have the potential for profitable redevelopment as mixed-use neighborhoods, sometimes paired with adaptive reuse strategies.

Why is this important to your community?

Brownfield and greyfield properties represent both challenges and opportunities for the communities that host them. On the one hand, these properties, which are typically abandoned or marginally used, contribute to community blight, and in the case of brownfields, may pose ongoing environmental and health risks until properly cleaned up. On the other hand, redevelopment of these underutilized properties can help spur economic growth, create jobs, protect public health, and bring quality-of-life benefits to local communities. Because these sites are typically already in areas served by public infrastructure such as water, sewer, and transportation networks, utilizing these brownfield and greyfield sitesfor infill re-development opportunities also protects open space and reduces new infrastructure costs, by reducing the need for development on “greenfield” sites and by protecting our farmlands.

How does it work?

The EPA estimates that there are over 450,000 brownfield sites in the US, covering at least 15 million acres. Brownfields can be found in rural, suburban, and urban settings. Their redevelopment can help communities of all sizes,  although economic development strategies must be tailored to the specific site and market context. Additionally, the extent of contamination may limit the potential safe uses of the site.

Brownfield Redevelopment

Brownfield redevelopment involves environmental assessment and remediation to identify and remove any contaminants that could pose a risk to future users or the surrounding environment. If the contamination is bad enough, the cost of remediation can be a significant barrier to redevelopment without public support. Potential new users of the site also are often concerned with potential liabilities associated with operating on a formerly contaminated site. Developers can minimize their exposure to legal action and remediation requirements thorough initial environmental assessments and by entering into cleanup and liability agreements with regulators. Regulatory agreements are important, because brownfields redevelopment is heavily regulated at both the federal and state levels. This heavy involvement by federal and state agencies provides access to numerous funding sources to assist communities and their development partners in brownfields assessment, remediation, and redevelopment.

Greyfield Redevelopment

Every community also has greyfields—old shopping centers, strip malls, and individual businesses or small groups of businesses—that are no longer operating and leave vacant shells. Because most greyfields sites are much less likely to be contaminated, and usually do not fall under any other than local regulations, it is relatively easy and cheaper to repurpose these sites. Like brownfields, greyfields tend to use existing utility and transportation infrastructure, reducing public costs, and because they also usually have large parking lots, can often be redeveloped more densely than the original structure. However, like any redevelopment project, greyfields projects must be suited not only to the area they’re located in, but also to market conditions, to realize maximum profit.

Ready to get started?

Using the Tool

  • Create an inventory of brownfield-greyfield sites with development potential.
  • Conduct an in-depth assessment of potential sites. Assessments should include information about current use and site features, zoning, major infrastructure, environmental information, local demographics, economic trends, potential incentivews, and re-use options. Use CONNECT’s In-depth Site Reports as a model.
  • Check CONNECT’s Brownfield-Greyfield Redevelopment Financing Toolkit for Local Government Officials for guidance on tools and funding sources available to finance potential brownfield and greyfield projects. The Toolkit also provides a number of regional and national best practices. Existing funding programs identified as having the greatest potential for accelerating brownfields-greyfields redevelopment in North and South Carolina include:
  • Other existing tools and no-cost methods of stimulating investment include:
    • Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs): Environmentally-beneficial projects that are completed in lieu of a monetary fine due to an enforcement action. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Office of Enforcement has institutionalized this practice by developing a program that links brownfield cleanups to SEPs. See more information about the program here.
    • Insurance Recovery: Sometimes an insurer from the business that once occupied the site can still be held liable for the contamination and cleanup costs. Consider contacting a local legal firm with an insurance recovery team to assess the potential for this opportunity. See an example of the application of this tool in Indianapolis, IN.
    • Tax Increment Financing (TIF): This form of financing is a way of capturing tax revenues generated within a specific district which exceed those generated in the year the district was designated, for use in promoting investment within the district. (See Creative Public Finance tool.)
    • Local Brownfields Property Tax Credits: Both North and South Carolina have several programs whereby property tax increases are postponed or credited for a set number of years after a qualifying brownfields action. These include South Carolina’s tax credit programs for the revitalization of Abandoned Buildings, Abandoned Retail Facilities, and Textile Communities. More information about these can be found here (link to appropriate toolkit pages)
  • Contact your regional COG or RPO for guidance to determine the tool or combination of tools that may best suit your community’s situation, and for assistance in pursuing partnerships and funding.
  • Consider implementing or supporting legislation that would permit the use of tools not yet available within North and South Carolina. Some of these tools include income tax credits, brownfields tax rebates, state sales taxes, job creation tax credits linked to brownfield designation, brownfields area planning, land banks, and green infrastructure programs. (See CONNECT’s Brownfield-Greyfield Redevelopment Financing Toolkit for Local Government Officials.)

Where has it worked?

ReVenture Park - Charlotte, NC

Image Source: Reventure Park.



Tom McKittrick, President
Forsite Development, Inc.

William C. Denman, P.E., Remedial Project Manager / Superfund Redevelopment Initiative Coordinator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region 4

Melissa Friedland and Frank Avvisato, Superfund Redevelopment Initiative
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Headquarters
703-603-8864 and 703-603-8949

About the Program

ReVenture Park is a 667 acre Superfund Site along the Catawba River in Charlotte, NC. A former textile dye manufacturing facility, ReVenture Park is being transformed into the region’s first and largest eco-industrial park and features multiple sustainable components including a waste-to-energy power plant, solar fields, incubator labs, wastewater treatment and reuse, R&D facilities, and on-campus classrooms. When fully developed, ReVenture Park is estimated to generate over $900 million of new investment and create more than 1,100 “green collar” jobs. The project also leverages the site’s existing infrastructure with over 500,000 SF of existing industrial space, rail access and significant electrical inter-connectivity including multiple sub-stations and transmission lines throughout the property. Additionally, there is an existing 360-million gallon containment pond that offers potential for waste water reuse. ReVenture Park has become a catalyst for attracting renewable energy companies and fostering new technologies in the Charlotte region.

Why it works

ReVenture Park is being developed by Charlotte-based Forsite Development Inc., a commercial real estate development firm focused on acquiring corporate surplus industrial real estate for the purpose of redeveloping it in an economically and environmentally responsible way. To make redevelopment possible, Forsite worked with EPA, state agencies, and the previous property owner to drive the site’s remedial program conducted under the federal Superfund program. Forsite worked with EPA’s Superfund and RCRA programs and the community to make sure that site reuse plans were compatible with the site’s cleanup goals. The company committed to developing the site in keeping with the site’s established remedial and land use goals, which permitted only commercial and industrial land uses across remediated impacted areas of the site. In February 2012, EPA delisted the site from the National Priorities List, thus qualifying it for state and federal brownfield grants and incentives, clearing the way for its transformation into ReVenture Park. ReVenture Park won the EPA Region 4’s “Excellence in Site Reuse” award in August 2014.