Brownfields: Bringing Life to a Community Through Revitalization

What is a Brownfield?

A brownfield site is any previously developed land that is not currently in use or used to its full potential that may be potentially contaminated from past use. In the words of our brownfields experts, “Brownfields redevelopment cleans up a problem to create a new asset for the community.”  It is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields sites in the United States. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties is advantageous. It increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off open land, and improves and protects the environment.

What is EPA’s Brownfields Program?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides grants and technical assistance to communities, local governments, states, tribes, and others to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties yearly through its Brownfields Program. In 2021, EPA selected 151 communities to receive 154 brownfield, multipurpose, assessment, and cleanup grant awards, estimating $66.5 million in funds.

To date, communities participating in the Brownfields Program have attracted more than $34.4 billion in cleanup and redevelopment funding after receiving Brownfields funds. Additionally, the program has leveraged over 170,000 jobs nationwide.

Read more about the Brownfields Program.

In addition, many states offer avenues for private parties to participate in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) liability limitations and financial incentives offered by the EPA’s Brownfield protocol through Voluntary Cleanup Programs.

S&ME Brownfields Services

Our experts help clients identify and understand EPA Brownfields Grant opportunities,  prepare grant applications to generate Brownfield Redevelopment opportunities, and guide private clients through various state Voluntary Cleanup Programs.

Our services include:

  • Guiding clients in grant funding applications
  • Performing Brownfield environmental services, including assessment of potentially contaminated media
  • Planning and site development services
  • Community engagement and outreach
  • Developing Voluntary Cleanup Agreements for cleanup and remediation, if needed.
  • Redevelopment of Brownfield properties
  • Construction management services

Grant Application and Writing

Every site is unique, and there are multiple options for future use to be considered. The EPA grant selection process is highly competitive, with a national win rate of roughly 25%. Because of this, it is essential to be well-positioned for funding. Our S&ME Brownfields Team has experience preparing multiple grant applications for funds through the Brownfields Grant Program, and cleanup grant funds to local governments and non-profits. Even when grant funds are not available, S&ME provides cost-effective assessment and regulatory negotiation services to help applicants navigate their brownfield opportunities.

Our team has helped our clients earn a total of $3,349,500 in funding through Brownfields grants.

Learn more about EPA Grant Funding.

Brownfields Site Redevelopment

S&ME work on a Brownfields redevelopment site

Our team also has experience in the site assessment, planning, risk evaluation, and project implementation necessary for completing successful brownfields redevelopment. We recognize that brownfields redevelopment involves many players. We work alongside stakeholders, contractors, environmental attorneys, regulators, funding agencies, realtors, developers, and others to make a redevelopment project successful.

S&ME Brownfields Grant Coordinator, Lydia Birk, tells us, “It is really satisfying to clean up a derelict site and see it revitalized for something useful for the community, whether it’s a park, a new office, or an apartment building. It is so gratifying to work with an organization, a city, or economic development organization that is struggling and be able to tell their story and win their money to fix their problem.”

S&ME Brownfields Projects

Knoxville South Waterfront Brownfields Assessment

The City of Knoxville, TN, selected S&ME to manage a Community-Wide Brownfield Assessment Grant for the corridor, funded by the US EPA Brownfield Assessment Grant Program. The purpose was to develop an understanding of the nature and extent of potential contamination that could impact redevelopment opportunities.

Throughout the project we:

  • Conducted a comprehensive Brownfield candidate site inventory
  • Identified 60 potential Brownfield candidate properties and compiled them in a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database
  • Provided Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (Phase I ESA)
  • Quality Assurance Project Plan Preparation
  • Extensive asbestos and lead-based paint surveys
  • Phase II ESAs
  • Project management and client support, including preliminary remedial planning, progress reporting, and assistance with the grantee’s ongoing community outreach efforts
  • Coordination with federal EPA and state regulatory personnel involved in oversight of the grant

This project won an ACEC-TN Engineering Excellence Honors Award.

The work resulted in the Suttree Park, City View Park, and the Baptist Hospital Redevelopment.

The Baptist site is a $160 million project developed with Regal Entertainment headquarters, luxury apartments, student housing, and a Riverwalk along the Tennessee River.

American Tobacco Redevelopment

For decades, the American Tobacco Campus and the City of Durham, NC were among the busiest industrial centers in the country, shipping products worldwide.  After the American Tobacco Company shut their flagship factory in Durham in 1987, the vacant buildings fell into disrepair. Over the next several decades, the shuttered factory accumulated broken windows and pigeon droppings and was a blight on the City’s skyline. The end of the tobacco industry in Durham put the Bull City in a position to re-invent itself. The American Tobacco Campus was the spark for the transformation of the City’s downtown. To overcome the environmental and construction challenges of restoring the 120-year-old manufacturing facility, S&ME assembled a team of professionals skilled in geotechnical engineering, Brownfields environmental consulting, asbestos and lead remediation, and construction materials engineering and testing. Located across from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and the stunning Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), the restored American Tobacco Campus is the center of a community attracting millions of guests each year.

Brownfield Services provided by S&ME included:

  • Asbestos and lead paint surveys
  • Hazardous materials abatement specifications and abatement monitoring
  • Development consulting to minimize exposure to contaminated soil and groundwater
  • Letter of Intent for NC Brownfield Program
  • Phase I Environmental Site Assessment
  • Phase II soil and groundwater sampling
  • Sampling and Analysis Plan (SAP)
  • Review/preparation of draft Brownfield Agreement
  • Regulatory negotiations with NCDEQ
  • Limited remediation of contaminated soil
  • Landscaping consultation related to contaminated soil excavation

This project won an ACEC/NC Engineering Excellence Grand Award.

Southeast Tennessee Development District

S&ME was selected by the Southeast Tennessee Development District (SETDD) to manage a Community-Wide Brownfield Assessment Grant for a Coalition consisting of ten counties and three cities located in southeast Tennessee under the US EPA Brownfield Assessment Grant Program.

As part of this effort, S&ME worked with the SETDD to identify and prioritize sites from an inventory assembled by the SETDD and coalition partners. S&ME supported the SETDD with experiential knowledge related to facilitating interactions between owners, regulators, and other stakeholders to present the objectives and advantages of using these funds and gain property access authorization for assessment implementation.

Project activities included 14 Phase I ESAs, Quality Assurance Project Plan Preparation, extensive asbestos, and lead-based paint surveys, five Phase II ESAs, including assessment of several former textile mills and manufacturing facilities that covered multiple city blocks, and general project management and client support which includes Assessment, Cleanup and Redevelopment Exchange System (ACRES) reporting, preliminary remedial planning, and as-needed assistance with the grantee’s ongoing community outreach efforts. Project requirements also include coordination with federal EPA and state regulatory personnel involved in oversight of the grant.

Contact Us

Lydia tells us, “I bring economic development experience through working with municipalities and county governments on bringing about successful redevelopment. While writing grants, we can help clients realize and redevelop and recognize these dreams of theirs while making the community better.”

For more information on Brownfields assistance, please contact Lydia Birk at