Brownfields are abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. EPA's Brownfields Initiative will empower States, communities, and other stakeholders in economic development, to work together in a timely manner to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields.
Sioux Falls has been working to redevelop a mixed industrial and commercial corridor adjacent to the Big Sioux River in the City's central business district. Sioux Falls intends to implement a strategy that facilitates redevelopment and reuse of the brownfields properties within the Big Sioux River Corridor. The Pilot has: reopened negotiations with City officials, State agencies, and a property owner within the project area to address assessment and cleanup issues. The Pilot is: conducting Phase I and II assessments on about 20 acres; identifying strategies for reviving community involvement in all aspects of the planning; completing a redevelopment plan and legal agreements; and developing a clearinghouse of information that includes buildings, rent structures, available contractors and architects; and an Internet homepage.
EPA's Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative is designed to empower States, communities, and other stakeholders in economic redevelopment to work together in a timely manner to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields. A brownfield is a site, or portion thereof, that has actual or perceived contamination and an active potential for redevelopment or reuse. Between 1995 and 1996, EPA funded 76 National and Regional Brownfields Assessment Pilots, at up to $200,000 each, to support creative two-year explorations and demonstrations of brownfields solutions. EPA is funding more than 27 Pilots in 1997. The Pilots are intended to provide EPA, States, Tribes, municipalities, and communities with useful information and strategies as they continue to seek new methods to promote a unified approach to site assessment, environmental cleanup, and redevelopment.
Site Profile: The Pilot targets the Big Sioux River Corridor, an area that is adjacent to the City's central business district and spans the Big Sioux River from Falls Park to Fawick Park.
EPA Region 8 selected the City of Sioux Falls for a Regional Brownfields Pilot. Sioux Falls has been working to redevelop a mixed industrial and commercial corridor adjacent to the Big Sioux River in the City's central business district. Many parcels in the corridor have been redeveloped, and it is becoming a source of civic pride . However, several large brownfields lie in a crucial location, physically dividing two areas where revitalization is underway, and have remained undeveloped because of the uncertainties of contamination and liability. Visual blight and depressed property values persist in the areas associated with these brownfields.
Sioux Falls intends to implement a strategy that facilitates redevelopment and reuse of the brownfields properties within the Big Sioux River Corridor. Since 1991, the City, a business group, the Chamber of Commerce, and two development organizations have made significant investments all along the corridor. Past activities have included monitoring and sampling for environmental contaminants and setting the groundwork for a comprehensive redevelopment plan. The brownfields initiative is intended to maintain the momentum of redevelopment by reviving public involvement, reopening negotiations with current property owners, and developing a cooperative problem solving approach.
The Pilot has:
The Pilot is:
Experience with the Sioux Falls Pilot has been a catalyst for related activities including the following.
SD Dept. of Agriculture and Natural Resources
The City of Sioux Falls is negotiating acquisition of privately held, underutilized Brownfields parcels in the river corridor of north downtown to clean up and redevelop for public and private uses. Existing uses include an old railroad switching yard with multiple siding tracks, a scrap metal salvage operation and a brick yard. Future uses will include public park facilities, a key roadway necessary to connect two popular visitor destinations, replacement of the sprawling rail switching yards with a single rail throughway, extension of the 14 mile River Greenway recreational path and the creation and expansion of some private redevelopment sites.
Brownfields redevelopment is essential to an overall strategy of continued Downtown revitalization based on sustainable economic development and environmental health. The redevelopment will remove a tainted barrier separating Downtown attractions from the recently rehabilitated and heavily visited Falls Park. The separation impedes realization of the full economic potential of both areas. The roadway and park expansion will stimulate private sector investment to expand Downtown's job base, stabilize aging neighborhoods, build the regional tourism economy and extend economic prosperity into northern downtown. The main occupant of the site, a scrap salvage yard that has operated for 78 years adding to existing environmental issues of the site, effectively discourages economic investments in neighboring properties.
The downtown segment of the Big Sioux River corridor suffered more than 80 years of abuse, neglect and decline. By the mid 1960s it had become an unsightly, undesirable assemblage of blighted lots. The corridor was characterized by shabby buildings, depressed warehouse and industrial land uses and railroad tracks. The negative impact of these conditions on the image and economic health of Downtown was compounded by the challenge of suburban shopping malls and the loss of Downtown's role as the city's primary shopping district.
Successfully revitalized, Downtown Sioux Falls now serves as model that is frequently examined by other cities with struggling central business districts. The City has cleaned up and redeveloped much of the Downtown river corridor. It is now a recreational and aesthetic asset which bolsters the economic vitality of a generally prosperous Downtown. The City achieved Downtown revitalization through coordinated, systematic investments in public improvements and infrastructure, investing millions of dollars. The strategy relied on extensive public-private collaboration and helped develop a network of federal, state and local partnerships. North downtown, adjacent to the Brownfields area, is presently stable but warrants additional attention.
Also near the northern edge of Downtown and bordering the Brownfields is Falls Park, the City's birthplace and namesake. While heavily visited because of the great natural scenic beauty of its cascades and its wealth of historic resources, Falls Park has been a community embarrassment for decades. It served as a city landfill in the 1940s. It encompassed huge smokestacks, mountains of coal for power generation, a web of overhead utility lines, dismal water quality, unsightly and noisy rail yards, abandoned and burned out warehouses, and numerous auto and metal junk yards. Clogged with dense underbrush and a thick growth of volunteer trees, the park used to have a frightening reputation as a hangout for transients, drug dealers and delinquents.
Today the park has been dramatically transformed. It has been fully rehabilitated through an intensive multi-million dollar program of public improvements which began in 1994. The project has been highly acclaimed by the general public, and it is now a source of civic pride. New river walk recreational pathways, extensive historic style lighting, rehabbed historic buildings, picnic shelters, outdoor historic interpretive panels, underbrush removal and thorough re-landscaping have made it a spot of beauty and history. Many of the newly constructed and ongoing improvements have been made possible by the assistance of civic clubs, Forward Sioux Falls, the Chamber of Commerce and numerous private businesses.
Falls Park had more than 29,500 visitors during the month of July. Visitors signing the guest register in an interim visitors interpretive center at Falls Park during the first 10 days of that month represented 46 states and 15 foreign counties. QVC broadcast live from Falls Park, and sell-out performances of MacBeth have been staged in the Park's historic Queen Bee Mill ruins. A 1997 scientific survey conducted for the Chamber of Commerce revealed that 80.4 percent of Sioux Falls residents have visited Falls Park in the past 12 months.
Despite the successes with Downtown and Falls Park, redevelopment of the Brownfields area remains a challenging impediment for realizing the full economic and environmental potential of the two areas. Brownfields redevelopment will allow expansion of Falls Park and its integration with Downtown. This will tie the popular park with Downtown attractions such as the Washington Arts and Sciences Pavilion and omni theater, the Statue of David, the Old Courthouse Museum, two National Register historic districts, the Orpheum Theater playhouse and Phillips Avenue specialty shops. The integration will build the tourism economy, provide jobs where they are most needed, and promote the desired level of economic development adjacent to the Brownfields area.