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Cities Prepackaging Property Online to Raise Reuse Potential

"Brownfield" properties and redevelopment projects find new platform for the diligent work returning underutilized real estate to productive use.

CHICAGO - Aug. 25, 2015 - EntSun -- Brownfields are previously developed sites that have fallen into disuse. Sometimes they are contaminated. Sometimes they bear the legacy of industrial infrastructure. They can pose cost-prohibitive problems that prevent redevelopment. But more often, they present viable reuse opportunities for capable and creative developers.

"Brownfields can get caught in limbo," says Dan French, CEO of Brownfield Listings. This can happen whether the redevelopment costs are high or low, because the market traps brownfields in an information vacuum. The presumption of higher costs discourages real data gathering, because no one is willing to make the initial investment to properly investigate the property's true potential.

And the trap is set.

To bust the brownfield trap, cities are getting proactive. Performing their own investigation can provide the data needed to catalyze the market.

"All markets trade on information," says French, but the redevelopment marketplace is often starved. To satisfy that hunger and fill the void, French launched Brownfield Listings, a Chicago-based internet startup and property and project platform dedicated to real estate reuse.

"A lot of useful information already exists," says French. "But it is hidden away in the file drawers and hard drives of real estate professionals. We're breaking that information out."

After launching in July, U.S. cities from coast to coast and three municipalities in Puerto Rico are already using Brownfield Listings to market their reusable real estate more aggressively and connect to real estate specialists and brownfield buyers nationally.

"The news of late has focused on the economic troubles facing Puerto Rico's government, at the expense of the tremendous real estate investment opportunities on this Caribbean island," says David Southgate, Brownfields Project Director at the quasi-public Desarrollo Integral del Sur, Inc. (DISUR). "The reality is that we have an amazing set of economic incentives for brownfield investors in diverse sectors, such as renewable energy, tourism, commercial real estate and affordable housing."
DISUR was first to win a grant from U.S. EPA under the "Area Wide Planning Program," developing information on multiple properties at once. Like other proactive communities developing their own due diligence, DISUR is using Brownfield Listings to get that information to market and attract buyers.

"It's a way to elevate Lansing's reuse opportunities beyond our geography and signal the redevelopment community that we're interested in developing these sites," says Travis Bandstra, Director of Economic Development for the Village of Lansing, Illinois. "Now brownfield buyers can find us in a place where they are expecting to discover these kinds of opportunities and be led to Lansing by substantive interest."

Substance is a real difference on BrownfieldListings.com, where users build a more robust reuse prospectus by uploading images, documents and other media. Each picture is worth a thousand words, but backed-up by real documentation the brownfield listing paints a visually powerful and deeply informative content vehicle for each of these unique redevelopment stories.

Telling these reuse stories well is the key to selling them, and even more important when trying to advance a redevelopment project and communicate a specific vision to the market.

"Our property isn't for sale," says Vannessa Frazier, Executive Director of Howardville Community Betterment in Howardville, Missouri. "It not only has a unique deed, it's historical, with the potential to provide basic to elaborate redevelopment amenities for the community." Howardville "needed a tool to tell our complete redevelopment story and attract the specific interest we're looking for."

Brownfield Listings users package their due diligence more cleanly and with greater consistency. "We're building our own website too," Frazier adds, "but these tools make it easy to get our message in front of a redevelopment audience in the right format."
Not content with limbo, redevelopment champions like Frazier are everywhere doing the hard work to rebuild the economic potential of their properties. Every year there are hundreds of applicants to EPA's Brownfields Grant Program.

Now Brownfield Listings has given them a platform to showcase their work product.

"With the help of EPA's Brownfields program, DISUR has completed due diligence, clean-up and reuse planning for 47 sites comprising more than 1,000 acres, including 900-plus acres of heavy industrial lands and the equivalent of four city blocks in an Historic Zone on the shores of the Caribbean," says Southgate. "Federal support for our locally-proposed solutions helps developers visualize real land revitalization projects."

Traditionally, buyers perform the due diligence prior to a real estate transaction; but rather than waiting around for one to call, if ever, this front-loaded due diligence approach creates the same information that drives decision-making for buyers and takes it on the offensive.

"When you are able to perform a Phase I or II [environmental site assessment] and generate potentially actionable info, or you have a plan, you want to test the market's best response," says French, "and now you can."

Brownfield Listings is the online complement to more traditional marketing practices dominant in the redevelopment space—driven by relationships, attending conferences or attracting site selectors to city-led tours.

Next week at EPA's National Brownfield Training Conference in Chicago, Brownfield Listings is providing the online complement to the conference itself by hosting an online map as a feature of the Economic Redevelopment Forum.

"Brownfield Listings has provided us the vital marketing platform to showcase our inventory of sites, along with the completed due diligence and investment incentives," says Southgate.  "We're ready to show that Puerto Rico is a smart move."

Combining style with substance, Brownfield Listings is set to make real estate redevelopment a smarter game entirely.

Source: Brownfield Listings, LLC

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