LVEDC’s Redevelopment Program is Having One of Its Busiest Years
By Colin McEvoy on August 31, 2015
It’s been a big year for the Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative (LVLRI).
2015 has been one of the busiest years in the 17-year history of LVLRI, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation‘s (LVEDC) program focused on promoting economic development through the reuse of abandoned and underutilized commercial and industrial properties, also known as brownfields.
LVLRI has worked on about 12 projects in various stages over the first eight months of the year so far, according to Andrew Kleiner, LVEDC Director of Redevelopment and External Affairs. That’s roughly twice the number projects that the program has assisted with in some previous years.
“Marketing and developing brownfields is a central part of the regional economic development strategy,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO. “Fostering economic development while protecting human health and the environment is one of many ways LVEDC works to support sustainable development in the Lehigh Valley.”
In another sign of LVLRI’s burgeoning success, LVEDC has been invited to participate in the 2015 National Brownfields Conference, one of the premier national conferences and trade shows focused on environmental revitalization and economic redevelopment.
Kleiner will make a presentation at the conference, which will be held in Chicago from September 2 to 4. LVLRI is one of 150 programs around the world to be selected for the conference, from a highly competitive field of about 425 applicants.
“A lot of people who come to these conferences are trying to learn what programs are out there so they can emulate best practices,” Kleiner said. “This conference will show that LVEDC, through LVLRI, is a leader in redevelopment, and also sets us up to help market our developable brownfields in the Lehigh Valley.”
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.
Over the last 15 years, LVLRI has seen 300 acres of contaminated land remediated, over $400 million of leveraged funding based on years of successful U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant wins, and the creation of about 1,200 jobs, according to Kleiner.
LVEDC cannot provide specifics about many of its ongoing projects. But one example of a company LVLRI assisted this year is Wave Polarizer, North America’s only manufacturer of high-quality polarized film, which is used in polarized sunglasses, 3-D glasses, and eye-testing systems.
Wave Polarizer is relocating from New Jersey to Easton, where they plan to open in a new building at 653 Bushkill Street this fall, bringing eight jobs with them. LVLRI assisted with environmental assessments for the company’s new location.
Mark Smith, owner of Wave Polarizer, said the move will result in cost savings from employment taxes, workers’ compensation costs, insurance expenses, and real estate expenses, among other areas. Working with LVEDC and LVLRI allowed the company to save money on environmental inspections, as well as take advantage of professional expertise, he said.
“There’s a cost saving in almost every area of business by moving from New Jersey to Northampton County,” Smith said. “The move was a no-brainer.”
Also in 2015, LVLRI has continued to do assessment work for the Waterfront in Allentown, a $300 million, 26-acre mixed-use development alongside the Lehigh River that will include state-of-the-art office buildings, luxurious residences, restaurants, and a retail district. LVLRI has provided environmental assistance work at the site since 2011, and previously received a $486,000 Growing Greener grant for the project.
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).
“LVLRI has been recognized both regionally and nationally for the work it has accomplished,” Kleiner said. “This new award will let us continue that work into the foreseeable future.”
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.
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