Lehigh Valley Redevelopment Success Stories Highlighted in Site Tour
By Colin McEvoy on April 20, 2018
Dozens of developers, environmental consultants, location consultants, and economic development professionals visited the Lehigh Valley this week to see a few of the region’s many redevelopment success stories.
About 60 people attended a Lehigh Valley site tour and networking event about brownfields on April 19, which included site visits to such successful past redevelopment projects as the Simon Silk Mill in Easton, the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, and the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in Allentown.
“We have industrial manufacturing coming back to downtowns, and we’re seeing jobs being created on formerly abandoned or contaminated sites,” said Andrew Kleiner, Director of Redevelopment and External Affairs with the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). “You often hear a lot of talk about creating a place where you can ‘live, work, and play.’ we’re actually seeing it happen here.”
After touring the sites, the participants attended a panel discussion at Bridgeworks entitled “The Art of Redevelopment: Leveraging Resources & Partnerships for Your Project,” which featured which Kleiner a panelist.
Other panelists included:
- Stephanie Branche, Project Officer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Troy Conrad, Program Manager of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Land Recycling Program
- Brian Eckert, Director of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) Office of Business Financing Site Development Division
- Elizabeth Limbrick, Project Manager with the New Jersey’s Science & Technology University’s Technical Assistance to Brownfield Communities Program (NJIT TAB).
Branche discussed the EPA grant application process, and said guidelines for what is expected for the 2019 grant period are expected to come out in the fall. Last year, 279 of the 486 grant proposals received by the EPA were accepted, Blache said, and about $57 million in funding was awarded, an amount she expects to be similar this year.
“It’s a very competitive process and there’s a lot involved,” she said. “You may have a perfect proposal and still not get it. All I can say is try again. And if you are unsuccessful, we offer a debriefing and how to improve your grant proposal for the future.”
Conrad discussed Pennsylvania’s Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act, commonly known as “ACT 2,” a risk-based approach to the cleanup of a contaminated site which, after a set of compliance standards are satisfied, result in relief from liability for the property owner.
Conrad said ACT 2 was established in 1995 because the state had a growing inventory of idle or underutilized commercial and industrial properties, and developers were hesitant to become involved in redevelopment because of liability issue and the cost of remediation.
Kleiner said several projects in the Lehigh Valley were ACT 2 sites, including SteelStacks, the Simon Silk Milk, and Coca-Cola Park in Allentown.
“If we open the doors with a phase 1 environmental assessment, then ACT 2 is the light at the end of the tunnel,” Kleiner said. “If I’m a developer looking at a brownfield and I’m worried it will cause problems, I know i can trust the process enough that at the end of the day the liability will be removed. That’s the beauty of the program.”
Anthony Durante, Program Manager at the Allentown Economic Development Corporation, discussed the Bridgeworks incubation program, which is operated by AEDC. Based in a refurbished former Mack Trucks plant, the 64,000 square-foot Bridgeworks is the region’s only incubator dedicated primarily to manufacturing startups.
Since its founding in 1989, 63 companies have gone through the program, and 37 have gone to graduation, Durante said, with 620 jobs being created over that time. Of those 37 graduated companies, 33 are still in business today, and the other four have been acquired.
The redevelopment event was organized by the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast (BCONE) co-hosted by BCONE and NJIT. Among the attendees were representatives from Abscope Environmental, Clean Earth, Hill Environmental Group, JLT Group, PennJersey Environmental Consulting, Ramboll, and SGS.
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