Susan Wenzlick spoke to the club as a Senior Brownfield Consultant at Fishbeck, Thompson, Car & Huber, Inc.
After three decades with the Michigan Department of Environment Quality (now EGLE), Ms. Wenzlick joined Fishbeck, an engineering, environmental sciences, architecture, and construction management consulting firm based in Grand Rapids.
A short video was shown, highlighting the Detroit Riverwalk and how partnerships between the city, businesses, non-profits, and the State helped eliminate blight and environmental contamination, making the area as great as it is now. Collaboration and funding from all of these sources brought the dilapidated property back to life.
Most of the properties that become blighted and/or require environmental clean-up are mom & pop businesses (gas stations, cleaners) where the owners cannot afford to maintain or clean up the property. For unpaid back taxes, they revert back to the government who then attempt to sell at auction.
For properties not sold at auction, land banks were created to become the owners. Each county in the State has a land bank as well as the City of Detroit. They operate to sell the land, and also work with the State’s Brownfield Authority which provides grants and low-interest loans to communities to facilitate the redevelopment of contaminated properties. The Authority also provides tax increment financing to businesses to incentivize the cleaning and demolishing of properties where the businesses will benefit through lower taxes when redeveloped.