In case you missed it, here’s a run-down of the key takeaways from the “Making It Happen: Brownfield Resources in Louisiana” Workshop held at the Regional Transportation Management Center in New Orleans at the beginning of the month.
Every seat at a table was full, a pretty even split between consultants and municipal representatives; the day and a half workshop was jam-packed with great advice relating to Brownfield Resources. One reoccurring theme was strategic planning and thinking ahead, have a big vision and a plan to get there. It’s unlikely that Brownfield Funding is going to be the only resource needed for that big vision, but can be a critical piece, especially if leveraged with other resources to implement pieces of the larger plan.
Quite a few speakers emphasized the importance of having the right team, or network of people to rely on as resources. Whether layering different grants and needing someone to help navigate through the requirements of each one and ensure the timing of layering them the way needed; or having a strong enough network to be able to get in touch with the right people at the right time; or numerous experts to help turn the vision into a strategic plan of action that the whole community can get behind. Team members and your larger network don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The expected team members will definitely include LDEQ & EPA, an environmental consultant, key players from other municipal departments and most likely a developer.
Thoughts from Ms. Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes, Director of Strategic Neighborhood Development, New Orleans Business Alliance, included the process for the signature Claiborne Corridor Development. She brought to light some of the cultural issues facing the neighborhood, and how she and her team, were able to overcome the challenges. This was definitely a situation where perseverance as well as good community planning and involvement was able to in the end make the vision work. The key takeaway from her talk was “being a part of the community and listening and understanding, is key to build trust with the residents”. This reinforces what we’ve been hearing through Brownfields programs, on having community input in the planning process to help ensure you have a strong, viable, project.
Many of the speakers also agreed that having that signature project and/or specific area that both has needs for redevelopment, the community wants it, and has another component that makes it attractive to grant money (low-income, minority, historically disadvantaged, historic, etc…); is a key element to a successful grant. This was echoed by the ‘Developers Perspective Panel’. Developers often get a bad rap, making sure their projects are
profitable doesn’t also mesh with the community objectives. However, the Developers on the Panel, have a slightly different perspective; sure they want their projects to be a financial success, but for that to happen long term, the project has to be wanted and fit into the community. Sometimes those type of projects are cost-prohibitive, but that’s where our panel has gotten creative and smart, but looking for public funding, through incentives and grants.
Wrapping up another successful Brownfield Workshop, I’m sure all attendees will agree creativity and good planning will help a vision come to fruition.