By Steve Dwyer
In mid-September, about 50 students attending the University of Connecticut (UCONN) experienced a teaching moment from a brownfields practitioner.
BCONE President, Stephen Jaffe, participated in a lecture to UCONN engineering and environmental students—some of whom might set out to pursue a career in brownfield redevelopment—on the topic of “Brownfield Due Diligence.”
Jaffe was duly qualified to speak about a host of specific brownfield-oriented themes to the students. The event was all part of BCONE’s mission to fan out across the region to inform and enlighten both public and private organizations about the brownfield redevelopment way.
“We have always known it’s vital to put BCONE out there to inform—not only via networking but through teaching,” says Jaffe. “We understand the value of getting young students involved at the ground floor, During the lecture, they were very excited to learn about the many aspects of due diligence within brownfield reuse and redevelopment—aspects that are so essential to what we do on a daily basis.”
Carrying out similar events and seminars across other BCONE states—from university to state agency engagement—Jaffe says it’s important to deliver “updated policies but also to tell about the success stories within brownfields.”
Jaffe’s September presentation had an added incentive: The UCONN environmental and engineering students have a chance to secure a BCONE-sponsored scholarship, to be determined at the end of the semester, for their work within the brownfield redevelopment industry. (More details on this to come in a future news report.)
Speaking to the students who function within UCONN’s Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering class, Jaffe’s lecture outline underscored the overarching theme of “Brownfield Property Acquisition.” Drilling down further, such topics discussed included negotiations and the way brownfield stakeholders must allot adequate time to conduct due diligence. From there, Jaffe detailed relevance of professional consultant retention, environmental, wetlands/floodway, archeological, geotech, title, zoning, traffic, use/density, politics, utilities, application fees, absorption study and cost estimates.
Additional pillars of the lecture focused on New Jersey Redevelopment Law, which entailed redevelopment vs. rehabilitation, interim and final redeveloper designations, redevelopment agreements and redevelopment plans. It went on to focus on approvals, property closings and a case study focusing on the Haddon Town Center, a successful mixed-use apartment and retail community located in Haddon Township, N.J.
Once students had a chance to hear Jaffe’s presentation, they were able to take that knowledge and apply it to a semester-long course within UCONN’s CT Brownfields Initiative/Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering. The class is being presented by Nefeli Bompoti, Ph.D., assistant research professor, and Marisa Chrysochoou, Ph.D., director.
The learning objectives of the course include both technical skills specific to brownfield redevelopment and non-technical skills related to communication and management. Upon completion of the course, students will be able to identify the status of a site as brownfield; articulate the relevant laws and regulations that govern the management of a brownfield site; identify and describe how federal, state, regional and municipal levels of government are involved in the process of redeveloping brownfield sites; identity and describe how private development entities are involved in the process of redeveloping brownfield sites; describe the potential funding sources to cover the different stages of a brownfield redevelopment (investigation, clean up, development); list the different phases of a site investigation, the objectives of each phase and the methodology to develop a plan for each phase.
The students who excel the highest in this course will be awarded with the scholarship—to be determined by both UCONN professors and a third party group. BCONE’s scholarship was established in 2018, in memory of Charlie Bartsch, former member of the BCONE Board of Directors and the nation's passionate voice promoting the importance of brownfields remediation and redevelopment. Charlie was the leading guru on how to assemble a variety of state and federal incentives to enhance projects of interest to the community. Contributions in Charlie’s memory are funding the scholarship at UCONN (and one in New Jersey and one in PA), the details of which will be shared in a news report later this year.