After more than ten years of building a brownfield redevelopment program, Cuyahoga County Officials are currently contemplating bringing the program to a close. Over the last few years significant staff cuts have reduced the amount of resources dedicated to the program. Now it appears that in 2017 the various incentives available to attract redevelopment to brownfields may no longer be available. Or, there will be no staff dedicated to run the program.
Hopefully, County Officials will understand the critical need the brownfield programs provide to overcome the major impediments to reuse of old industrial and commercial buildings in the region. Even with the recent economic development boom in Cleveland there remain hundreds of underutilized or vacant brownfield properties.
One of the most critical needs the County program fills is grant funds to pay for Phase I and limited Phase II environmental assessments through the County's Brownfield Community Assessment Initiative. Under the program, the County would provide up to $5,000 in grant funds for Phase I assessments and up to $35,000 for Phase II assessments. These incentives help overcome the first major hurdle to brownfield redevelopment- having no information about the condition of the property. Many developers and businesses aren't willing to front these assessment costs as part of early evaluation of a property.
The County also provided forgivable loans to help offset environmental cleanup costs. Under its Redevelopment Ready Program, the County can provide loan funds up to $1 million with 40% of the total loan forgivable if certain criteria are met. This type of loan was a critical tool in the Miceli Dairy expansion project which was one of the significant brownfield redevelopment projects in Northeast Ohio. Without County incentives, both assessment grants and a forgivable loan, the project never would have occurred. The expansion kept and expanded jobs in a critical area in Cleveland.
The County had offered a wide array of programs and incentives to help renovate vacant buildings and spur brownfield redevelopment. It took nearly ten years to build up the expertise and incentives which made it a very successful program. For a full list of the County Brownfield Programs click here.
We can only hope that the new Administration realizes what a critical function a brownfield program plays in an area with a long industrial past and limited space for redevelopment.