Webinar: Find out how to get your brownfield on The Edge of something special

Real estate agents, property owners, developers, take note: We’re on The Edge of something special in the Greater Williamsburg area. And there’s FREE money available to get you in on the ground floor!

You’ve probably already heard the buzz about the ambitious economic development project, a gamechanger that will revitalize one of the area’s most premier districts. Picture being part of an eclectic mix of food, beverage and retail businesses along Second Street, Merrimac Trail, Capitol Landing Road and the 143 Corridor. James City County, Williamsburg and York counties all make up The Edge, which currently includes popular attractions such as Emily’s Donuts, Shoofly Dairy Bar, Shorty’s Diner and more.

A $600,000 Environmental Protection Agency Community-Wide Brownfields Assessment Grant awarded to the Greater Williamsburg Coalition can jumpstart your vision. Learn the details of requesting access to grant funds firsthand by signing up for a one-hour webinar titled “Using Brownfields Grant Funds to Improve Commercial and Industrial Properties” on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 2 p.m.

“This Brownfields Assessment Grant represents the first-ever grant awarded by the EPA to the Greater Williamsburg area,” said Voncile “Von” Gilbreath, director of the Greater Williamsburg Partnership. “It will be crucial to moving our region forward by helping to encourage redevelopment, recruit businesses, create high wage jobs, and generate wealth for all citizens.”

The coalition is actively approving commercial/industrial properties and deploying funds for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs), Phase II ESAs, lead-based paint and/or asbestos containing material surveys, community engagement and preliminary and redevelopment planning.

“Whatever the owner envisions, we can make that happen with the due diligence and the planning,” said Tom Laughlin, a senior associate at Richmond-headquartered Draper Aden Associates (DAA), an engineering, surveying and environmental services firm that is managing the implementation of the grant. “It could be anything. We’ve done boutique hotels, restaurants, breweries and distilleries. It could be a doughnut shop; it could be a warehouse.”

It can transform your brownfield into a go-to destination for tourists and local residents.

Some owners don’t realize they own a brownfield, Laughlin said, noting the term applies to any land or property that’s idle or vacant or less productive than originally thought due to environmental concerns.

“Brownfield properties become problematic because they may look like there’s a dark cloud over them because it’s raining all the time,” Laughlin said. “Historically we’ve learned that they’re not that bad. They’re perceived to be contaminated. But realistically, often it’s just a vacant building that needs some TLC.”

Cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields almost always raises property values and creates jobs. That’s an addition to the obvious environmental benefits.

But cleanup can cost depending on what’s involved. If groundwater under the site is contaminated in addition to the soil, the price rises. Cost also depends on standards that apply to the future use of the property, though commercial use is typically less expensive than residential.

That’s where the grant money can help. The Greater Williamsburg Coalition will select properties based on three criteria:

  • Impact on public health, the environment and wildlife habitats
  • Proximity to municipal or private water sources, residential areas and schools
  • Potential reuse of the site for economic development

“It is a great opportunity because it allows businesses not to spend money on due diligence,” Laughlin said. “Grant money can be used for planning and redevelopment — conceptual design drawings for a property. It does not pay for remediation, but by paying for these other costs, the grant alleviates some of the burden on developers.”

The Feb. 4 webinar will feature Gilbreath, representatives from DAA, The Landmark Group in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Gloucester-based Consociate Media.

Bottom line: “The money is there. If you have properties in the pipeline, please let us know,” said Laughlin.

Register for the webinar here.