Brownfields Meeting To Link Developers Owners Regulators
By Marilyn Bowden
An innovative incubator session designed to midwife deals by bringing buyers, sellers and regulatory agencies together will cap the third annual Florida Brownfields Conference, says Chairman Michael Goldstein.
The conference "Working in the Fields: The Business of Growing Redevelopment in Florida" is scheduled Aug. 21-23 in the Eden Roc Hotel, he says, and is expected to draw about 250 participants.
It focuses on challenges associated with the restoration and reuse of abandoned or contaminated commercial or industrial properties, known as brownfields.
"In prior years, the conferences have had a lot to do with learning how to fix things," says Mr. Goldstein, an environmental lawyer with Gunster Yoakley & Stewart who has chaired the county’s Brownfields Task Force since its inception three years ago in the wake of the Florida Legislature’s approval of the Brownfields Redevelopment Act. "Now it’s time to execute what we’ve learned and make deals happen."
A Brownfields Database at the conference’s website is designed to expedite deal-making, he says. Sellers private as well as public can upload information about properties and even add digital pictures at no cost.
Companies interested in development at brownfields sites can search the database using several criteria, he says.
At a deal-incubator session planned for the conference’s final day, Mr. Goldstein says, regulators at federal, state and local levels, major lenders and others involved in the nuts and bolts of brownfields development will be on hand for consultation.
"We’re working on the day when we can move from the historical approach of regulators moving against developers," he says, "to regulators working hand-in-hand with the community. It’s consensus-building versus advocacy."
Douglas Yoder, assistant director of Miami-Dade County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management, says as far as he knows this is the first time a deal incubator has been tried in Florida.
"We’re hoping we will be able to bring together people who have properties to redevelop with people interested in doing redevelopment," he says, "and ultimately have some deals made as a result."
For planners, he says, the incubator will provide some much-needed direct experience with using the Brownfields Program.
"Certainly it will be a way of focusing attention," Mr. Yoder says, "and initiating whatever additional research may need to be done.
"We hope to have some way of tracking informal arrangements made on that day that later lead to deals so that we can use them to persuade those in the marketplace that it’s not so difficult to do these things.
"We’re looking for success stories here."
The conference’s first two days will take a more conventional approach, Mr. Goldstein says, with experts from around the country sharing experiences and addressing such concerns as job creation, legal issues, protocols to communicate risk to neighborhoods, how to get seed money and taking advantage of incentive programs.
The afternoon of the second day is set aside to identify an action agenda for the next year, he says. It will incorporate a consensus list of priorities that can be used before and during the next state legislative session.
"This could be become a starting point for next year’s conference," Mr. Yoder says. "We could start with a look at what we did about those issues."
Mr. Goldstein says the action agenda will be uploaded to the conference website.
"We also hope to upload digital tapes of the break-out and plenary sessions," he says. "Some people are skeptical about whether the private sector will commit. I think we’re just beginning to see a rising tide of brownfields development in this state." Details: (305)-376-6007 or FLBF2000.org.