• Press Release
  • Full Report (revised)
    (File Size: 1.6 MB)
  • Executive Summary (revised)
  • Report Highlights (revised)
  • Chart I: Population Capacity
    118 cities estimated that, collectively, they could support 5.8 million new people in their cities—a population larger than the states of New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Wyoming combined.
  • Chart III: Job Creation
    187 cities estimated that more than 550,000 jobs could be created on former brownfield sites—this employment level is nearly equal to the number of people now employed in the states of Vermont and Wyoming.
  • Chart IV: U.S. Land Development
    Fifteen percent of all land developed in U.S. history was developed over the last five years (1992-1997).
  • Chart V: Local Revenue Potential
    Three-fourths (177) of the survey respondents estimated that if their brownfields were redeveloped, these cities would realize $878 million to $2.4 billion annually in additional tax revenues.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 24, 2000

231-City Report Shows Effects of Brownfields in America

Miami-Dade, FL — At a press conference today, The U.S. Conference of Mayors called for a national commitment to ‘recycle’ the thousands of brownfields in America’s cities. This third annual report on "Recycling America’s Land" finds brownfields redevelopment could generate 550,000 additional jobs, and up to $2.4 billion in new tax revenue for cities. The press conference was held at the Poinciana Industrial Center, a brownfield undergoing redevelopment in Miami-Dade, and attended by Cedar Rapids (IA) Mayor Lee R. Clancey and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas.

The Conference’s third annual brownfields report, documents the pervasiveness of the brownfields problem throughout the United States. Entitled Recycling America’s Land: A National Report on Brownfields Redevelopment, the study quantifies the many lost opportunities to the nation in failing to recycle these sites back into more productive uses. (Brownfields are abandoned or underutilized properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.)

In a statement released with the report, Conference President and Denver Mayor Webb said, "As Mayors, we want to see every piece of property in our cities reclaimed and put back into productive use. Brownfield sites are eyesores that blight neighborhoods and negatively impact the economic vitality of the nation. By redeveloping these brownfield sites, we are also able to utilize our existing infrastructure, including our roads and sewer systems, while easing the pressure to develop open spaces and farmland."

A total of 231 cities provided information on the status of brownfields in their communities. Among the findings:

  • 210 cities estimated that they had more than 21,000 brownfields sites, which range in size from a quarter of an acre to a single site that measures 1,300 acres.
  • Of those that could estimate acreage, 201 cities had more than 81,568 acres of land that were abandoned or underutilized. This acreage is nearly the same as the total land area of the cities of Minneapolis and Pittsburgh combined.
  • This year's report again shows that brownfields affect cities of all sizes. Nearly a third of the respondents were cities with populations under 50,000, and more than six out of ten respondents were cities with populations under 100,000.

Responding cities reported three major obstacles to the redevelopment of brownfield sites. Lack of funding was cited most often, followed by liability problems arising from Superfund legislation, and requirements for expensive environmental assessments.

Upon viewing these findings, Conference Executive Director J. Thomas Cochran commented, "This report further documents the negative effects of the Superfund law on the nation's cities. The nation's Mayors want Congress and the White House to join them in enacting a comprehensive development program with incentives and other policies to stimulate private sector investment."

Respondents were also asked to identify potential benefits that brownfields redevelopment could provide to cities:

  • Three-fourths of respondents estimated that if their brownfields were redeveloped, their cities would realize $878 million to $2.4 billion annually in additional tax revenues.
  • 187 cities estimated that more than 550,000 jobs could be created on former brownfield sites.
  • More than 180 cities said they could support additional people moving into their city without adding appreciably to their existing infrastructure. Of these, 118 respondents estimated that, collectively, they could support more than 5.8 million new people in their cities—nearly equivalent to the population of Chicago and Los Angeles combined.

Regarding the site of the release of the report, Mayor Penelas said, "The Poinciana Industrial Center is an appropriate spot to unveil this survey because it is a microcosm of the nation's brownfield challenge. Through great effort, local residents and business people have redeveloped some of the land. We removed 10,000 cubic feet of solid waste and concrete rubble and 3,000 tons of contaminated soil. However, current federal law stands in the way of further improvements. I am pleased to join my fellow Mayors in the drive toward making brownfield recycling simpler and more efficient."

An additional benefit of brownfield redevelopment cited by Mayors was the preservation of farmland and greenspace, as a tangible means of curbing sprawl. "The latest statistics from the Department of Agriculture confirm that . . .the impact of sprawl is getting worse," said Mayor Clancey. "On average more than three million acres of unspoiled land was developed each year from 1992 to 1997, more than doubling the 1.4 million acres lost per year from 1982 to 1992. The American Farmland Trust (AFT) calculates that fifteen percent of all land developed in our entire history as a nation was developed in the most recent five year period." Previous surveys have found that few city-state partnerships to deal with the issue of sprawl. Mayor Clancey cited the AFT as one of the Conference’s strongest partners on this effort, and stressed the importance of the Conference and AFT’s urban/rural coalition to address these issues.

Brownfields redevelopment and farmland preservation are among the Conference’s highest priorities. At the January Meeting of the Conference of Mayors, Mayor Webb presented "A New Agenda for America’s Cities" before more than 200 Mayors. The ten-point "New Agenda," which the Conference has called upon Presidential Candidates to adopt, calls for federal action to help eradicate the nation’s estimated 600,000 brownfields sites, and to restore these properties to productive use while preserving farmland and open spaces.

The full report, and searchable city results, is available at the Conference’s website, www.usmayors.org.

The U. S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are about 1,100 such cities in the country today. Each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor.

  • Jubi Headley, USCM Public Affairs, on-site in FL, cell phone (202) 744-9337
  • Tony Iallonardo, USCM Public Affairs in Washington at (202) 861-6772
  • Juan Medieta, spokesman, Office of Mayor Penelas, (305) 375-1545