The city of Stamford has been involved with a number of brownfield projects, including the cleanup and redevelopment of this building at 575 Pacific St. in Stamford, which now is home to a Harley-Davidson dealership.

After 10 years of heading up efforts to redevelop some of Stamford’s abandoned and polluted industrial properties into commercial and residential space that is both modern and functional, the city’s mayor is in a position to encourage similar projects across the state.

Mayor Dannel P. Malloy is serving as the president of the newly established Connecticut chapter of the National Brownfield Association. Malloy and other leaders of the organization met in Hartford late last month to inaugurate the new chapter.

The national organization is dedicated to identifying the best practices and policies to use when redeveloping brownfields and to supporting different chapters’ projects, according to Robert Colangelo, executive director of the Chicago-based association.

“Our goal is to promote the responsible redevelopment of brownfields,” he said.

Brownfields are usually abandoned or underused industrial or commercial properties, according to the organization. Their redevelopment is often hampered by the real or perceived presence of environmental hazards.

“Putting these properties back into productive use provides both environmental and economic benefits – it creates jobs, restores local economies and cleans up impacted soils and groundwater,” according to a prepared statement from the organization.

The association tries to bring together the various parties involved in brownfields redevelopment: property owners, developers, investors, service professionals and government representatives.

“[The association’s] strength comes from its balanced, diverse membership, consisting of senior executives from both the public and private sectors. NBA’s mission is carried out through three primary conduits: information, education and events,” according to its Web site. “We are the ‘go-to’ organization for information on the brownfield market, and through our Web site, e-mail updates and Brownfield News magazine, we have the ability to keep our members well informed of changing market conditions, policy and legislation.”

The National Brownfield Association started in 1999 with a national focus, but leaders soon realized that it might be more effective at a local level.

“The best way to effect change was to work on establishing local chapters,” Colangelo said.

The group started to establish state chapters, starting with places in the Northeast – such as New Jersey – and the Midwest that already active brownfield programs. The organization now has 10 chapters, including three in Canada. Since much of the progress toward brownfield redevelopment comes from the local level, the group’s national leaders try to find a mayor who is experienced with the issue to head the state chapters.

A ‘Broad’ Agenda

In Connecticut, Malloy was one of the obvious choices. Stamford was the recipient of the federal government’s first – and third – revolving loans for brownfield redevelopment, and the mayor has helped enable some major projects in the city.

“We’ve been active in pursuing redevelopment,” he said. “It was something I was interested in when I became mayor.”

Malloy first became involved with the National Brownfield Association about a year ago, when he met some of its leaders at a brownfield conference during which they talked about establishing a Connecticut chapter.

The chapter is already far along in its organization, Malloy said. Various individuals have been appointed to chair most of its committees, which cover topics like policy and legislation and technical issues. About 120 people showed up for its inauguration.

The group is not a lobbying organization, but will act as a clearinghouse for new ideas and will work on bringing together potential partners, Malloy said.

“I think we will advocate good state policies to redevelop brownfields,” he said. “I think there’s a pretty broad agenda.”

A major function of the organization is to encourage public education about brownfields, Malloy said, a topic with which he is familiar. Stamford has provided loans for projects such as the cleanup of a contaminated shipyard, which made way for 325 units of housing.

The city also has been instrumental in many smaller projects, including one that involved the owners of the city’s Harley-Davidson shop expanding into an old mill building at 575 Pacific St. In that case, in addition to providing loans, Stamford arranged for an employee of the Environmental Protection Agency and several licensed environmental professionals to test the area for contaminants. They found polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which are manmade chemicals used in electrical equipment that can be harmful to health. The resulting cleanup cost about $150,000. The discovery led the owners of the bike shop to reach an agreement to keep money in escrow until the contamination was cleaned up. During the cleanup and redevelopment process, some 3,500 cubic yards of contaminated dirt was hauled away.

The National Brownfield Association is also planning to start chapters in California and Pennsylvania, according to Colangelo.