If poor communities aren’t living in the shadow of active industrial pollution, they’re often living in its graveyard. Industrial polluted brownfields are fenced and festering from California to Maine, frequently situated near low-income residents. When developers come to clean up and build on the sites, too often they plan projects that will push out rather than benefit the people who live nearby.
But today The New York Times points to a different kind of trend in brownfields development: building health centers for low-income local residents on sites formerly occupied by meatpacking plants, gas stations, and factories. These kinds of projects stand to bolster communities, not just property values, and they’re still serious investment opportunities for health-care companies.
[There's] a nationwide trend to replace contaminated tracts in distressed neighborhoods with health centers , in essence taking a potential source of health problems for a community and turning it into a place for health care. In recent years, health care facilities have been built on cleaned-up sites in Florida, Colorado, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Oregon and California.
“These health care providers are getting good at it,” said Elizabeth Schilling, policy manager for Smart Growth America, an advocacy group. “They have internalized the idea that this is an opportunity for them.”
Because these sites are contaminated, many qualify for government tax credits and grants, providing health centers with vital seed money to build. Community health centers, by design, exist to serve populations in poor neighborhoods, where there also tend to be available but contaminated properties like old gas stations, repair shops and industrial sites.