A brownfield is a property where the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Brownfields are often abandoned or unutilized sites due to the presence of contamination or suspected contamination.

Brownfields have a direct impact on the economy of cities and states. The presence of brownfields decreases the tax base, lowers property values on adjacent properties, increases crime and blight, eliminates jobs, and weakens the K-12 education system by encouraging residents to move to neighboring communities.

The presence of brownfields drains the City of Detroit’s valuable resources and impedes the progress of Detroit’s revitalization. When properties are abandoned, they tax-revert to City ownership, rather than creating tax revenues for the City’s public services. Once brownfields are reused, revitalized, and remediated, the tax base is rejuvenated while simultaneously generating jobs and decreasing the amount of crime and blight related issues. When these sites are cleaned up and owners reinvest in these properties, cities see an increase in the local tax base, job growth, and use of existing infrastructure. The revitalization of brownfields also takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land, and both improved and protects the environment.


In order to assist the City’s mission towards revitalization, BSEED-Environmental Affairs (EA) has worked on countless redevelopment projects, such as the clean-up activity located along the Detroit Riverfront; the Riverfront encompasses nearly 350 acres alongside the Detroit River and downtown. The goal for the Riverfront was to restore its historical glory prior to industrialization, while “showcasing the success of true renaissance”, essentially uniting a city and community as one.

This was accomplished through collaboration, partnerships, compliance assistance and mechanisms of enforcement. BSEED-EA actively collaborates with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), Brownfield Redevelopment Programs. EA has procured hundreds of thousands of dollars for brownfield assessment and clean-up through the EPA and EGLE programs and continues to do so.


In addition to collaborating with EGLE and the US EPA Region V Chicago office on the Riverfront project, BSEED-EA worked side-by-side with: US EPA - Grosse Ile, Michigan, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC), City of Detroit Planning & Development Department (P&DD), Recreation Department, Law Department, Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), and Department of Public Works (DPW). While employing the Redevelopment of Urban Sites concept (REUS), they were known as the "REUS Team." Throughout the project, their efforts eliminated waste by maximizing resources and relying on one another for technical expertise, thus advancing the City's agenda.


Brownfield Redevelopment: The Riverfront Project 


before and after