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LVEDC’s Redevelopment Program Discussed at “Best Practices” Session

By Colin McEvoy on June 16, 2015

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has once again been asked to share the success stories of its brownfields redevelopment program, which is increasingly gaining recognition as a model program throughout the state and nationally.

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham was invited to speak at the fourth annual Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) Pennsylvania Financing Roundtable Conference, which featured economic development finance experts from around the across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Cunningham spoke during a session about “Brownfields Redevelopment Best Practices.” He discussed the Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative (LVLRI), which promotes economic development through the reuse of abandoned and underutilize commercial and industrial properties, also known as brownfields.

“This is not the first time LVEDC has been asked to discuss our redevelopment program as a best practices model,” Cunningham said. “This just illustrates that the success the Lehigh Valley has experienced in rehabilitating brownfields, which is a key part of the regional economic development strategy.”

Last month, LVEDC was invited to participate in the Pennsylvania Brownfields Conference in Erie. It was the state’s largest forum about land use planning, community renewal, remediation technology and the redevelopment of brownfields.

LVEDC will also be participating in the 2015 National Brownfields Conference, which will be held in Chicago from September 2 to 4. It was one of 150 programs selected from around the world to be participate in the national conference, from a highly competitive field of about 425 applicants.

Additionally, LVEDC was recently awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assist with environmental assessments and site cleanup plans for brownfields. It was one of only nine Pennsylvania communities, and only 147 communities in the nation, to receive one of the competitive grants.

“Since 1998, LVLRI has successfully assisted public and private sector partners with the redevelopment of brownfield sites across the entire Lehigh Valley,” Andrew Kleiner, LVEDC Director of Redevelopment and External Affairs, previously said. “LVLRI has been recognized both regionally and nationally for the work it has accomplished. This new award will let us continue that work into the foreseeable future.”

During the CDFA conference, Cunningham spoke about how the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfield sites can advance a region’s economy, restore the local environment, and ultimately lead to permanent job creation and greater attraction of external capital to the community.

“We were thrilled to have Don speak at the Brownfields Redevelopment Best Practices session during the CDFA Pennsylvania Financing Roundtable Conference,” said Emily Moser, CDFA program manager.

“LVEDC has successfully pushed forward projects like the former Bethlehem Steel site because they are able to bring multiple partners to the table, and they understand the creative financing sources needed for brownfield projects,” Moser said. “LVEDC’s projects serve as great case studies to other communities.”

The one-day CDFA conference included discussions about new development finance tools, authorities, resources and approaches, and how these methods can affect the Pennsylvania economy going forward. Other specific areas of discussion included opportunities in debt and capital markets financing, supporting rural and small town development, and capital access resources.

Over the last 15 years, LVLRI has seen 3,000 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.

LVLRI accomplishes brownfields 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.

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