Brownfield Project tidying up communities

All around the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas there are vacant warehouses and plots of land that go unused due to the state of their questionable standards of safety. These sites, known as “brownfields, In some cases it may be paint improperly disposed of, in other cases it may be years of waste left to rot, and now creating a possible health hazard, which inhibits the use of these properties. Behind every case, however, there lies a mountain of work that begs to be done. These sites are known as “brownfields.” They are often owned by the cities within which they are located, but can also be privately owned. In order to make use of such a property, they must be cleaned up and certified by the state. Although it doesn’t seem like it would be a difficult task, it is.

Every year the government distributes money to aid in the redevelopment of brownfields, but the process is extremely complicated. There are locations to be identified, applications to be filled out, data to be collected, and sampling to be done; all before the land can be utilized.

Although it is arduous, the results are definitely positive. Macel Wheeler, of the NKU Geography program, sums up the idea behind the projects as simply, “Why not re-use the land?” Often times these properties are prime real estates. They are close to the city and would benefit the surrounding populations. Instead of allowing a warehouse or lot to go abandoned and dilapidated, the Brownfield Redevelopment Project seeks to clean up the property, clearing the area of contaminants and bringing it up to a standard that would allow for a certain use. A buyer can then be paired with the property and developed. It could be developed, for example, into an industrial location, which would then create jobs. Or, it could be the site of a housing development, or any number of other possibilities.

Northern Kentucky University is a hub for the ongoing efforts of the Brownfield Redevelopment Project. The University sponsored the Northern Kentucky Brownfield Redevelopment Forum this past Tuesday and brought together several speakers from different branches of the program.

The forum covered aspects such as the current status of Kentucky’s Brownfield Initiatives, the successes of Covington’s Brownfield projects, collaborative efforts of the projects, and Kenton County’s Inventory of possible Brownfield sites. Through a grant given by NKU and collaborative efforts on the part of faculty members and interns, the university has undertaken the challenge of compiling an inventory– to locate every site. According to Ms. Wheeler, this task includes calling city officials, fire departments, police stations, people within different communities and asking about possible Brownfield sites. Articles were published in papers and information was broadcast on television eliciting recommendations from the public. The intent is to make an inventory, complete with information on all possible sites, available to the entire region. Compiling this information, Ms. Wheeler says, “pull[s] everything together.”

One of the speakers, Mr. Ryan Kent, of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission, is a former NKU student. Mr. Kent said he took a class at the university, which peaked his interest in the GIS. (GIS, which stands for Geographic Information System, is a computer system comprised of hardware, software, data, and personnel to help manipulate, analyze, and present information that is tied to a spatial location. It is a key element in the compilation of Brownfield inventory.) Mr. Kent then became involved with the project as an intern and was later hired by the Planning Commission.

Ms. Wheeler encourages any students who are interested in the Brownfield Redevelopment Project to call or email and inquire about an internship.