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Lehigh Valley Brownfield Redevelopment Program Highlighted at Prestigious National Conference

By Colin McEvoy on September 8, 2015

Gina McCarthy, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, speaking at the National Brownfields Conference in Chicago.

Gina McCarthy, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, speaking at the National Brownfields Conference in Chicago.

Experts from across the country gathered in Chicago last week for a premier conference about environmental revitalization and economic development, and representatives from the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) were among them.

LVEDC was chosen to participate in the 2015 National Brownfields Conference to discuss the organization’s Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative (LVLRI) program, which is focused on promoting economic redevelopment through the reuse of abandoned and underutilized commercial and industrial properties, also known as brownfields.

About 2,800 people attended the conference, where LVEDC Director of Redevelopment and External Affairs Andrew Kleiner spread the word about the success of the LVLRI program, and gathered information about best practices and success stories in brownfield redevelopment from all over the nation.

“Urban redevelopment, throughout not just Lehigh Valley but the entire world, involves people from all different backgrounds coming to the table and volunteering their experiences to facilitate the best possible outcome for a given project,” Kleiner said. “We all work together toward a common goal for the good of the public and the smartest possible reuse of a given site.”

Andrew Kleiner

Andrew Kleiner

LVLRI was one of 150 programs from around the world selected to present at the conference, from a highly competitive field of about 425 applicants. Kleiner’s presentation was entitled “Building a Successful Local Partnership: The Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative.”

Held at the Hilton Chicago, attendees included local, state, and federal government leaders; federal and state contractors; real estate developers and investors; construction and building firms; financial and insurance providers; economic development officials; community development organizations, environmental and civil engineers; and others.

The conference comes at a time when LVLRI is experiencing one of the busiest years in its 17-year history. The program has worked on about 12 projects in various stages over the first eight months of the year so far, roughly twice the number it has assisted with in some previous years.

“I believe LVLRI is one of the stronger redevelopment programs in the country, and participating in the National Brownfields Conference allowed me to spread the word about our success,” Kleiner said. “Showing that LVEDC, through LVLRI, is a leader in redevelopment also sets us up to help market our developable brownfields in the Lehigh Valley.”

Also this year, LVEDC was awarded a $500,000 federal grant to assist with environmental assessments and site cleanup plans for Lehigh Valley brownfields. The Lehigh Valley was one of only nine Pennsylvania communities, and only 147 communities in the nation, to receive the competitive grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Over the last 15 years, LVLRI has seen 2,000 acres of contaminated land remediated, over $400 million of leveraged funding based on years of successful EPA grant wins, and the creation of about 1,200 jobs, according to Kleiner.

LVLRI accomplishes brownfield redevelopment in several ways, including helping site owners and developers identify financial assistance for environmental assessment and remediation work at brownfield sites, and by assisting on technical matters such as grant/loan application preparation, environmental work plan preparation, and the completion of buyer/seller agreements.

Additionally, LVLRI serves as an intermediary between all parties involved in a brownfield transaction, and maintains an inventory of underutilized commercial/industrial properties throughout the Lehigh Valley. Fostering economic development while protecting human health and the environment is one way in which LVEDC works to support sustainable development.

The LVLRI is an advisory committee comprised of municipal officials from cities, boroughs, and townships in both Lehigh and Northampton counties, as well as brownfield experts, regulatory agency representatives, private developers, engineers, and consultants.

Kleiner also delivered a presentation about LVLRI at the 2015 Pennsylvania Brownfields Conference, which was held in Erie, Pa. from May 13 to 15. LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham was also a panelist at that event, which included a featured story about the Coca-Cola Park project.

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