Brownfields: What Are They?

Nov 16, 2022

The development of many properties across Appalachia, as well as other regions across the United States, are being held back because of real or perceived environmental contamination. These properties are referred to as brownfields and often occupy prime locations in core business districts, in industrial zones, or along waterfronts.

Assessment and Redevelopment

Restoring blighted industrial and commercial properties can have a transformative effect on communities, especially those that are evolving from economies previously reliant on extractive industries.

The first step of the brownfield redevelopment process is to identify whether contamination is likely present at a property, which is determined by a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. If contamination is suspected, a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment is performed to assess the type and extent of pollution. If environmental cleanup is required, redevelopment planning can help guide the remediation process and determine the best use of the property.

Brownfield redevelopment plans are created by consulting firms like Downstream Strategies. These plans also rely on strong coordination among stakeholders, including community leaders, government agencies, private parties, and nonprofit organizations.

Project Highlights

Downstream Strategies has worked successfully with many communities and stakeholders to implement local visions to successfully transform properties into public parks, private business enterprises, and affordable housing.

Thomas, WV

Since 2014, Downstream Strategies has worked with the City of Thomas, West Virginia to craft and implement its brownfields redevelopment strategy. Along with multiple Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments, this project includes a market study and infrastructure assessment to support growth in the greater Thomas area. It also examines how brownfields redevelopment can be part of the solution to meeting community needs . Learn more about this redevelopment strategy by reading the overview.

Grafton, WV

Beginning in 2020, Grafton, West Virginia has been the focus of the All Aboard Brownfields Redevelopment Initiative led by the Northern Brownfields Assistance Center. This project aims to attract new business, lodging, and recreational opportunities to riverfront main streets in Grafton and nearby rural communities by redeveloping legacy industrial sites. Downstream Strategies is working as the project’s lead consultant.

Montgomery and Smithers, WV

Downstream Strategies published this report as a roadmap to help the communities of Smithers and Montgomery (known as the River Cities) develop their community capacity for tourism so that they will be prepared to take advantage of new market opportunities in the outdoor economy. Using our framework for assessing tourism infrastructure, this plan identifies specific businesses, services, and other amenities that will be needed to attract trail visitors. It features detailed startup scenarios for two business opportunities and detailed next steps, recommendations, and a checklist to guide local leaders in launching their nascent tourism economy.


A significant amount of federal funding is available to support brownfield projects. Downstream Strategies helps towns, nonprofits, and individuals secure brownfields grant funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA awards several types of brownfield funding, including assessment grants, cleanup grants, and other funding.

Downstream Strategies: Consulting With a Conscience. 

Downstream Strategies isn’t your average environmental consulting firm. With years of experience, expertise, and creativity to solve your most complex environmental and economic development problems, a simple list of dos and don’ts won’t do the trick.

We have the passion to get the job done the right way, right away. Contact us today by calling (304) 292-2450 or by filling out the contact form on our site.