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Boston Area Sustainability Group: Brownfields: Rewriting Industrial Legacy from Brown to Green

  • CIC Cambridge 1 Broadway, 5th floor, Venture Cafe Cambridge, MA, 02142 United States (map)

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New England has an important industrial legacy, but one that has left behind the bad with the good. Many former bustling commercial centers bear a burden of manufacturing pollution and contaminated land parcels and water resources, or brownfields, that impede their ability to grow and prosper as healthy communities.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. It is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S. In Massachusetts alone there are more than 1,000 registered brownfield sites and over 40,000 reported releases of oil or hazardous material.

The successful clean up and reinvestment in a brownfield site promises to increase the local tax base, spur economic growth, reactivate existing infrastructure, remove pressure from undeveloped, open land, and both improve and protect the environment.

Through presentation and conversation with guest subject matter experts, we will explore:

  • The current state of brownfields in Massachusetts and beyond

  • How communities can get educated about brownfields

  • Where to find funding and technical assistance to support redevelopment initiatives

  • The correlation between brownfields and racial inequity

  • The public health, environmental and economic benefits of brownfields revitalization

  • Lessons learned and success stories from community brownfield projects


Kate O’Brien, Director of Capacity Building, Groundwork USA

Kate leads Groundwork USA's EPA-funded brownfields and equitable development technical assistance program as well as efforts to strengthen the organizational sustainability of Groundwork Trusts.

Kate has been part of the Groundwork USA network for over 15 years, starting as a program coordinator for Groundwork Lawrence in Massachusetts before transitioning to deputy director in 2004, and then executive director in 2007. Under her leadership, the organization leveraged $1.5 million to support design and construction of two riverfront brownfield-to-park projects and pre-development of the now complete $2.6 million Spicket River Greenway. More recently in her own community, Kate secured grant funds for a citywide open space planning process she then designed and led in partnership with a coalition of nonprofits, local government leaders, and stakeholders.

Kate holds an MA in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University and a BA from Kalamazoo College. She lives and works in Portland, Maine with her husband and two young sons.

André Leroux, Executive Director, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance

André has been the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance since 2007, where he established the Great Neighborhoods program to help local residents transform their communities through smart growth projects. He helped found Transportation for Massachusetts, which is a statewide coalition that advocates for increasing funding for walking, biking, and public transportation.

Prior to that, André was the Director of Planning and Policy at Lawrence CommunityWorks, where he coordinated the Reviviendo Gateway Initiative (RGI), an award-winning community revitalization effort in Lawrence, MA. He also led the creation of two smart growth zoning districts in the city, helped to found a cultural economic development initiative, and coordinated a community-university partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called MIT@Lawrence.

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Andre completed two years of graduate studies at El Colegio de México in Mexico City studying urban development and environmental impact assessment. He has worked at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University and the Massachusetts State Senate. André co-authored a PolicyLink report in 2007 with MIT Professor Lorlene Hoyt called Voices from Forgotten Cities: Innovative Revitalization Coalitions in America’s Older Small Cities. He is fluent in Spanish.

Paul Locke, Assistant Commissioner, MassDEP Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup

Paul directs the MassDEP site cleanup programs, including emergency response activities, marine oil spills, natural resource damage assessment & restoration and the Brownfields Program.

Paul started working as a risk assessor with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Research and Standards in 1987, where he participated in environmental policy development, review of site-specific reports, and provided technical assistance to DEP staff and the regulated community. In 1993 he helped develop the state’s semi-privatized cleanup program – including the rules that determine “how clean is clean enough?” – that facilitates the redevelopment of Brownfields sites.

Since 2004, Paul has worked in the Waste Site Cleanup Program as Director of Policy Development, Director of Response & Remediation and as Assistant Commissioner. Recent initiatives include the development of a comprehensive soil management strategy, updating and streamlining the cleanup regulations, and the implementation of DEP’s vapor intrusion initiatives.

A former chemist (Harvard College) and fairly civil engineer (Tufts University), Paul has also taught (West Africa), developed photos (Cambridge), cross-matched blood (Boston) and scooped ice cream (Brighams).


We hope you’ll join us in learning more about our shared industrial legacy and efforts to turn brown to green. – Carol, Holly & Tilly