Georgetown and Redding have struggled for decades to find new life for the former Gilbert & Bennett wire mill. As frustrated residents know too well, this is not for lack of effort, through boom markets and bust.
We are not alone. By official EPA figures, there are approximately 450,000 to 650,000 brownfields in the U.S., with an actual total closer to 2-3 million. Recovering these industrially impacted landscapes to restore enduring economic, social, and ecological well being is a tremendous challenge.
Large-scale, all-in development has been tried twice over a 30-year span at the Wire Mill site, reflecting a lot of skill and the town’s best intentions.
These massive, highly capitalized projects have not turned out to be the silver bullets they were supposed to be. This is true not only in Georgetown, but in brownfield sites across the country. This is due in part to the crushing expense of remediation, which constrains development toward high-end residential condos in strong markets or publicly subsidized rental apartments in weak markets.
Neither option offers Redding and Georgetown the much-needed commercial development that balances out the town’s heavily-skewed tax base, with the town currently deriving a large percentage of its revenue from residential property taxes.
Global brownfields expert Niall Kirkwood explains that communities like Redding and Georgetown “have to address the global problem of brownfields with local solutions that are holistic and integrated. This requires multi-disciplinary working with diverse teams to create sustainable and liveable environments for stakeholders and communities.”
Niall Kirkwood and I were commissioned by the CT DECD in 2013 and 2014 to re-envision a vital future for G&B, and have assembled a multidisciplinary team to deliver a fresh approach to G&B revitalization.
Please join us at the Redding Community Center on Sunday, March 26, 4-6 pm, for a presentation and community-wide conversation. We look forward to seeing you!
— Philbrick holds a Master of Design Studies from Harvard University and has studied the Gilbert & Bennett property. She is a 20 year resident of Redding.