Dauphin County wants to make it a little easier for real estate developers to invest in old industrial and commercial properties that are sitting vacant across the county.
At the annual State of the County event slated for this evening in Harrisburg, the Dauphin County commissioners will discuss a plan to assess about 20 brownfield sites, which will include the creation of a new county advisory board that will help evaluate study sites.
A brownfield may be a blighted or underused industrial or commercial property. These sites are usually associated with environmental contamination that has the potential to be reused once it is cleaned up.
Last year, the Dauphin County Redevelopment Authority was awarded $400,000 through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s brownfields assessment grant program, the first time the county has received funding after several years of applying. Dauphin County was one of 131 communities to receive a portion of the $55.2 million, according to the EPA.
The county has hired TRC Environmental Corp. out of Philadelphia to lead the assessment work on sites with potential petroleum contamination and those impacted by other hazardous substances, including asbestos. Each study will identify the type of contamination and project what it could cost a developer to remediate the site before redevelopment can occur, county officials said.
Commissioner Mike Pries said the county wants to be proactive and identify the most shovel-ready sites for redevelopment. Some have already been identified, including the former Millersburg Reamer & Tool Co. in northern Dauphin County and an old gas station and machine shop across from the borough hall in Steelton.
“This (information) will raise awareness in the developer community,” Pries said, which will hopefully spur economic development and new tax revenue for the county and its municipalities.
The new board, which expects to have members in place by May, will be called the Dauphin County Transformation Initiative Advisory Board, or TIA. About a dozen people representing public and private sector organizations across the county are expected to serve on that board.
Building on past efforts
The county has had some redevelopment successes this decade following a comprehensive site study in 2011 that identified 100 key properties available for redevelopment.
Pries cited four projects: the Union House Apartments project in Lykens, site of the former Lykens Hotel and adjacent Israel Building; an apartment complex on the former Verdelli Farms property in Hummelstown; the Hamilton Health Center’s move into the South Allison Hill section of Harrisburg in 2012 and subsequent expansion in 2015; and a mixed-use redevelopment project starting in Steelton.
This brownfields effort should build on the 2011 list, officials said. The county plans to hold public meetings on the brownfields initiative and information about the properties assessed will be available at a later date on the redevelopment authority’s website.
The county also created a land bank authority in 2013 to help accelerate blight remediation efforts.