Blight, brownfield remediation tool debuts

DeKalb County officials took a step toward remediating and redeveloping brownfield locations and blighted areas with the launch of the county’s new Geographical Information System (GIS) tool on July 5.

According to a news release, the GIS tool emphasizes available sites and blighted areas that are ready for redevelopment as well as brownfield locations that need remediation.

Decide DeKalb President Dorian DeBarr said the hope is that readily available information on such sites makes them more attractive to developers.

“Decide DeKalb is thrilled to finally have an all-encompassing inventory system that identifies available sites ready for development in the county,” said DeBarr. “Developers now have the ability to research brownfield sites – and hopefully redevelop these special sites – that perhaps may not have been on their radar otherwise.”

Brownfields are former business and industrial sites that may pose risks to public health from exposure to hazardous chemicals. The news release states that the level of contamination at brownfield sites varies greatly, though there is usually contaminated soil or building materials present.

Decide DeKalb and other DeKalb government entities have helped redevelopers identify and remediate several brownfields in the past, and the news release states that the GIS tool could further the initiatives.

Pullman Yards—a former rail car station turned entertainment venue—Assembly Atlanta—the former GM plant converted into a television and movie studio campus—and East Decatur Greenway—a greenspace which once hosted a gas station and a polluted creek—are notable DeKalb brownfields that have been remediated with funds from Decide DeKalb’s Revolving Loan Fund through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative. The news release states that since 2019, Decide DeKalb has been awarded $4.2 million to oversee this brownfield work.

“In my view, this is a win-win-win,” said DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond. “The development community has an easily accessible resource for potential projects and what challenges they may present; the citizens of DeKalb County will see potentially hazardous properties assessed, cleaned up and redeveloped; and – most of all – the environment is better for everyone who lives, works and plays in DeKalb County.”

The news release states that cleaning and redeveloping brownfields also helps the environment in several ways. “Turning brownfields into productive projects may help alleviate pressure to build on untouched green spaces. It also replenishes land, helping it to thrive and return to a more natural state,” according to the news release.

Decide DeKalb partnered with DeKalb County Board of Commissioners through District 1 Commissioner Robert Patrick to fund the tool’s creation, according to a news release.

“There is no question this tool will have a huge impact on DeKalb County which is why I championed its creation,” said Patrick. “Along with Decide DeKalb, I want to advance meaningful development and revitalization in the county. We know this tool will lead to a greener, more sustainable DeKalb County.”

The tool can be found at dekalbgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/instant/sidebar/index.html?appid=d18fd831b8ea47c1818604fd660c37ec.

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