Skip to main content

Understanding Brownfields and the Benefits of Redevelopment

A brownfield is a property where expansion, redevelopment or reuse is complicated by real or potential contamination. Brownfields vary in size, location, age and past use; a brownfield can be anything from a 500-acre former automobile assembly plant to a small, abandoned gas station.

Brownfield properties may present public health threats, along with economic, environmental and social challenges for the communities where they are located. Brownfield redevelopment can benefit your community, and the DNR can help.

How the DNR can assist with your brownfield project

The DNR is here to assist you in navigating the brownfield cleanup and redevelopment process, including help with:

Start by contacting the DNR's brownfields experts for a "Green Team" meeting.

DNR publication Brownfields Redevelopment in Wisconsin: Essential steps and resources for successful redevelopment of brownfields (RR-933) [PDF] also offers an excellent overview of the process and steps for redeveloping a brownfield project.

Redevelopment benefits

Redevelopment Benefits

Communities across Wisconsin have demonstrated the benefits of a cleaned-up and redeveloped property. Reused land can:

  • Revitalize a neighborhood
  • Create jobs
  • Increase safety
  • Create economic benefits for real estate owners, businesses and local governments

Study: The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Wisconsin's Brownfields Investments

The University of Wisconsin - Whitewater Fiscal and Economic Research Center analyzed the economic impact of investment in brownfields across the state of Wisconsin. The study found significant benefits resulting from investment in brownfields cleanup and redevelopment, including:

  • each $1 in state funds leveraged $27.25 in total funds,
  • post-redevelopment assessed values exceed pre-development values in a ratio of 3.5 to 1,
  • 29,000 jobs were created by the 563 redevelopments included in the study, and
  • those redevelopment projects produced 28 million square feet of new or renovated space.

Read more:

Brownfields Success Stories

Businesses and local governments all over Wisconsin have worked together to transform blighted, abandoned lands into new businesses, housing, parks and more. See some of the brownfields success stories the DNR has helped cleanup and redevelop, including an interactive story map and videos.

Additional brownfield redevelopment resources

More Available Resources

The U.S. EPA (EPA) provides assistance to local governments, non-profits and states. For information on federal brownfields programs and policies, visit the EPA Brownfields page [exit DNR].

The EPA Land Revitalization Toolkit [exit DNR] includes thorough guidance, fact sheets and links to resources to help succeed with every part of the process including planning, site reuse, leveraging resources and more.

EPA’s information sheet “Cleaning up brownfield properties” provides introductory information about environmental cleanup methods and risk-based options. 

The Technical Assistance for Brownfields (TAB) [exit DNR] is an EPA-funded program that provides help to local governments and others in Wisconsin. TAB and its affiliated partners can help with EPA grant applications and assist a brownfield project by providing site reuse planning, market analysis, identifying possible financial incentives and much more. Visit [exit DNR] for recorded training seminars.

Information regarding state and federal financial resources for brownfields is available on the DNR's financial resources webpage.