Revitalizing old factory sites

You see them all along the Route 8 corridor. A hazardous environmental waste site. An eyesore to passersby. A hindrance to redevelopment. A source of unrealized tax revenue. A relic of Connecticut’s industrial past. Brownfields – old, abandoned factory sites – are all over our state, including right in downtown Shelton. And it’s one of my missions in Congress to get them cleaned up and repurposed.

Earlier this year, I joined Mayor Mark Lauretti to tour some of Shelton’s brownfields, including the old Chromium Process building on Canal Street. I saw firsthand what the city of Shelton has been able to do with redevelopment, particularly with the beautiful Avalon apartments built on the site of a defunct asphalt plant and the plans to redevelop the old Spongex building. But I also saw missed opportunities with the brownfields sites—right next to the Riverwalk and near downtown shops and restaurants. The unfortunate reality is restoring brownfields is expensive and tedious. Years and years of manufacturing activity have left these sites contaminated with pollutants like lead and PCBs. Before they can be redeveloped, developers must carefully clean up the contamination, making sure that none of it spreads to the soil or nearby rivers. Unlike a typical property redevelopment process, this two-step process is costlier and more complicated, scaring off potential developers.

This isn’t a problem that’s unique to Connecticut, but it’s a more acute problem here and in states across the northeast. The northeast was the lifeblood of the Industrial Revolution. What we did 100 years ago in manufacturing generated unparalleled economic benefits for our country and paved the way for manufacturing across the country. But our scars are still showing, so I’m working hard to show my colleagues in Congress the public and private benefits of redeveloping brownfields.

On the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’ve secured millions of dollars in federal grants from the Environmental Protection Agency for local cities and towns in Connecticut to help pay for the remediation process. I’ve also introduced the CLEAN UP Act, a bill that renews two expired tax credits that would allow developers to deduct the cost of clean-up and more accurately assess the tax value of the land. We need to be smarter about making sure a costly price tag doesn’t drive developers away from the very properties cities and towns need redeveloped the most.

I view my job in Congress as a problem-solver who cuts through red tape to make it easier for communities to prosper and grow jobs. For far too long, brownfields have held our communities back. I want to help community leaders reclaim that potential and create reinvigorated downtowns with affordable housing and new jobs. And I want make sure that these old abandoned factories aren’t the only signs our kids see of Connecticut’s manufacturing footprint. I’m committed to doing everything I can to kick-start brownfields clean-up. Let’s get to work.