Brownfields in Michigan

Redeveloping Coastal Brownfields

Many communities in Michigan are struggling to find new uses for abandoned or damaged properties, such as old factories and commercial buildings. Allowing facilities to fall into disrepair can threaten public health, water quality and the economic vitality of communities. Reusing these brownfield sites provides an opportunity to improve neighborhoods and diversify local economies. However, redevelopment can be a complicated and expensive process.

Defining Brownfields

The decline of the manufacturing industry has left many properties in Michigan with dilapidated buildings, debris and environmental contamination. Properties where redevelopment is hindered by the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances are considered brownfields. In Michigan, properties that are badly damaged or functionally obsolete, with or without environmental contamination, can receive state incentives for brownfield remediation and redevelopment.

Studying Michigan’s Brownfields

Michigan Sea Grant supported a research team from Eastern Michigan University to evaluate the challenges and benefits of reusing coastal brownfields and to identify strategies for improving redevelopment. The full research report will be available in summer 2010. The recent publication, Diamonds in the Rough, highlights 11 of their case studies of brownfields in Michigan. These examples illustrate the many benefits of redeveloping brownfields, including:

  • Eliminating unsafe and blighted buildings
  • Enhancing downtown and waterfront areas
  • Catalyzing investment and bringing new jobs to central locations
  • Promoting reuse of already developed areas, thus protecting undeveloped land and habitats
  • Minimizing the potential for leaching of contaminants into the water supply

While some brownfield projects are financed by private developers, community organizations, or local partnerships, many receive some financial incentives from the State of Michigan. This state funding is typically only a small portion of the actual remediation and redevelopment costs and is used to help “level the playing field” so that brownfield projects can more evenly compete with the costs for greenfield projects (new developments).

State and Federal Brownfield Programs


Featured Publications

Reclaiming Brownfields in Michigan Communities