Workshop at New England Brownfields Summit Puts Spotlight on CDC Projects

At the New England Brownfields Summit in Devens, MA on May 18th and 19th, nearly 300 brownfields practitioners from across the region, celebrated accomplishments, discussed challenges, and identified best practices.  While the weather was changeable (a beautiful and sunny spring day, followed by a rainy day) the quality of the information shared among project developers, licensed site professionals, public officials and others remained consistently high and thought-provoking. 

On the Summit’s second afternoon, MACDC presented a workshop entitled “Brownfields Redevelopment in Massachusetts: Case Studies in Boston and Beyond.”  MACDC President Joe Kriesberg moderated the panel, and two CDC Executive Directors shared their successful experiences redeveloping challenging brownfields sites, and an executive from MassDevelopment presented on a number of projects funded by the Massachusetts Brownfields Redevelopment Fund.

Teronda Ellis from Jamaica Plain NDC (JPNDC) described the JPNDC’s efforts to redevelop Jackson Square, in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. She described the history of the site going back to the 1950s and 1960s, when large swaths of the neighborhood were bulldozed to make way for the extension of Interstate I-95, before organized residents succeeded in halting the extension. Teronda has guided the redevelopment of Jackson Square, including the brownfields assessment and remediation, for many years, from her days as Real Estate Director at JPNDC to her current role as Executive Director. She described how the many hours she invested in learning the technical aspects of brownfields redevelopment strengthened JPNDC’s hand in negotiation with, and oversight of, the contractors and professionals involved in the redevelopment.  She also emphasized the need for teamwork among the professionals and meaningful, sustained, and iterative engagement with the community.

Jess Andors from Lawrence Community Works (LCW) described how LCW’s development of Lawrence’s Mill District was, and is, driven by extensive community visioning and engagement in design and problem-solving. The historic redevelopment of the Duck Mill posed numerous challenges, starting with legacy structural challenges associated with having penstocks and raceways under the building and site, to having funds from the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund being frozen partway through construction. Jess shared insights she gained during the process, including the importance of having both technical and “adaptive” experience, making sure there is broad community and stakeholder support, and leveraging any, and all, soft power and connections you may have to solve your problems.

The third presenter, David Bancroft from MassDevelopment, told the stories of several sites along the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line, which runs through the heart of Boston’s neighborhoods. He shared some amazing before and after photos of these sites, along with a quote from a woman who lived in one of the beautiful, redeveloped buildings, who described how she used to pass the vacant building every day and say to herself “This is the house I am going to live in one day with my family.” MassDevelopment administers the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, an essential resource for site assessment and remediation.

Close to 50 people attended the workshop at the end of the two-day summit, demonstrating the value of learning from those who have done the work on the ground (and in the ground) to turn contaminated sites into community assets.