Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Past as Prologue or Pretext

The past can be used to build a better future but can also be an obstacle to success. The Norwich Redevelopment Agency (RDA) is positioning itself for a new and essential responsibility in helping the city succeed and when they do, no matter where you live in Norwich, all of us will benefit.

Pocket history: Norwich was settled in much the same way as we humans have covered the planet like a well-known paint trademark. The earliest settlers set up home and hearth closest to the rivers and worked their way inland, leaving in place what they didn't need as they started over. But what became of what was left behind?

Everyone loves new--be it babies, cars or development ideas. And little troubles us more while visiting one of those new developments with our new baby in our new car, than when we drive past abandoned buildings, rotted, rusting and choking with weeds. It's all we can do to look away as the 'new' land we desire for economic development disappears and we're left with memories and brownfields.

Brownfields (as a term) have been with us since the last century, but their management and remediation are rapidly evolving even as solutions and funding for remediation are being reshaped.

The Norwich Redevelopment Agency (RDA) will take the lead in the efforts to reclaim brownfields that can be repurposed and returned to the city's grand list in partnerships with both the federal government's Environmental Protection Agency and with a revitalized State of Connecticut Office of Remediation, now within the Department of Economic Development.

Thinking green is rewarding in more ways than ever. Environmental concerns are still paramount as Norwich will work towards a Remediation Action Plan, RAP, a detailed plan that informs and energizes efforts to rescue and repurpose each property, developed from a community-wide perspective while also defining and prioritizing each end use.

Those end uses will be critical when pursuing grants, loans and private sector partnerships to reclaim the brownfields. Economic development, to include job creation, historic rehabilitation, energy efficiency and employment sustainment or positive impact on neighborhoods through enhanced public safety will now increase a particular project's value when funding is sought, enabling RDA, the City's Planning Office and other municipal agencies to seek money from a greater variety of sources in order to better affect remediation and create positive, permanent change in many Norwich neighborhoods and villages.

Past successes in brownfields remediation such as the creation of Occum Park set the bar for what we can do when we want to and need to. The Redevelopment Agency, city departments and elected leadership are, together creating a critical and important new chapter in the story of our city.
-bill kenny

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