On December 6, 2021, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) announced that the new Brownfields Impact Fund will launch later this winter. It’s a program all other states should emulate.
The Brownfields Impact Fund is part of NJEDA Community Revitalization, a suite of solutions designed to support development that transforms underutilized and contaminated spaces into community assets, with the goal of achieving a greener, fairer New Jersey.
This includes ensuring that residents living in communities that have historically suffered from disinvestment, environmental contamination, and health disparities benefit from brownfields redevelopment.
The program will provide grant funding and low-interest loans to public sector and non-profit organizations, as well as low-interest loans to for-profit organizations, to help revitalize communities by carrying out cleanup activities at brownfield sites throughout the state.
“As we continue to build a stronger, fairer New Jersey economy, Governor Phil Murphy has identified the remediation and redevelopment of brownfield sites as an important component of smart planning that will allow our State to meet its goals for economic growth,” NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan said. “The Brownfields Impact Fund will increase the economic impact of the State’s investment, reactivating long-stalled sites and encouraging job creation through productive reuse of long dormant properties.”
Brownfields are former commercial or industrial sites that are vacant or underutilized and are suspected or known to be contaminated. These properties have a negative impact on New Jersey’s economy because they lower property values, decrease employment opportunities, and lead to a loss of tax revenue.
Brownfields are diverse in terms of shape, size, contamination level, and location. A brownfield can be a large, former industrial property or a small, local site such as an abandoned gas station in a downtown area.
The Brownfields Impact Fund will make low-interest loans up to $350,000 available to for-profit organizations and will make grants up to $350,000 available to nonprofit organizations and units of local governments. Grants may be combined with low-interest loans to help facilitate the redevelopment of brownfields by addressing funding gaps to make the remediation phase of the project financially viable.
Once a site has been remediated, construction financing may be more readily obtained by a developer. The goal of the Fund is to advance cleanup activities that will in turn help promote the redevelopment of brownfield sites for productive reuse.
Eligible uses of the loan and/or subgrant funding include remediation activities necessary to clean up the release or mitigate the threatened release of hazardous materials and other activities approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).
To be eligible for a loan under the Brownfields Impact Fund, entities must be able to demonstrate site control or a path to site control of a brownfield property at time of application. Nonprofit organizations and local government entities applying for subgrant funding must own the brownfield property at the time of application and retain ownership for the term of the subgrant.
Furthermore, all applications for either the loan or subgrant must be accompanied by a letter of support from the mayor or, if the position of mayor does not exist, from the governing body of the municipality in which the brownfield site is located. Applicants must also be in good standing with the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.
Loans or subgrants cannot be provided to entities who are liable under federal law for contamination at the property. Private developers will not be eligible to apply for grant funding. Funds will be awarded on a first come, first serve basis upon receipt of a completed application.
Applications for the Brownfield Impact Fund are expected to open early 2022. For the first 90 days after the date the Authority begins accepting applications, eligibility will be limited to federally designated Opportunity Zones in the States’ Community Collaborative Initiative (CCI) cities. After the 90 days, the Authority will accept applications from projects located throughout the entire state.
Photo of Trenton, New Jersey waterfront courtesy of City of Trenton.