Cindy Brooks, Brownfields Expert

Cynthia "Cindy" N. Brooks is the president of the Greenfield Environmental Trust Group, Inc. (GETG) and president of Resources for Responsible Site Management, Inc. (RRSM), Trustee for the Industri-plex Superfund Site Custodial Trust. GETG is an award-winning, certified minority woman owned business enterprise (M/WBE) that provides real estate and brownfields consulting services, including aligning key stakeholder interests on property use, disposition, and redevelopment nationwide. Prior to launching GETG, Ms. Brooks was Managing Director of Seattle-based Greenfield International, LLC, which specialized in the reuse and disposition of environmentally impaired properties, as well as Founder and President of the Environment Trust Group, Inc. (ETG).

Having redeveloped contaminated properties for more than fifteen years, Ms. Brooks is widely regarded as one of our nation’s earliest pioneers and leading experts in brownfields transactions, value creation, and reuse implementation. Her award-winning work—showcased by government and industry as the “new paradigm” for redeveloping our nation’s most contaminated sites—has served as the model for numerous innovative federal programs. These include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund Redevelopment Initiative (SRI), and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Task Force to clean up and transfer decommissioned military bases (Alternatives for Clean-up & Property Transfer of Base Realignment and Closure Act [BRAC] Sites). Ms. Brooks’ expertise, multi-disciplinary skills, and unique ability to straddle both public and private sectors have enabled her to align divergent stakeholders and overcome critical barriers to redeveloping complex sites.

As President of RRSM, the federal district court-approved Trustee for the Industri-plex Superfund Site Custodial Trust, Ms. Brooks has led the redevelopment effort in Woburn, Massachusetts, since 1989. The Boston Sunday Globe credits her with, “…shepherd[ing] the project from its dubious status as one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s top 10 Superfund sites to its current ascent as the agency’s shining star.”

Working closely with a community that was traumatized and nationally stigmatized by superfund and the infamous Wells G&H site (documented in Jonathan Harr’s best-seller, A Civil Action) Ms. Brooks was able to successfully align divergent but critical stakeholder interests. She persuaded three state agencies to invest over $50 million in new public infrastructure at the site, integrating future use into the cleanup and successfully negotiating unprecedented public-private partnerships. After securing key reuse permits, Ms. Brooks marketed and sold this superfund property at above-market prices, convincing Dayton Hudson Corporation,  National Development, the Massachusetts Port Authority, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), and the Massachusetts Highway Department to make Industri-plex their home.

Today this former wasteland hosts Raytheon, Marriott, and Target alongside many other businesses that occupy a 1,000,000 sq ft high-end office park and hotel complex, a retail center, and a 2,500-car, state-of-the-art intermodal regional transportation center that serves as a more permanent, protective remedy for contamination at the site. This development has created 4,500 new permanent jobs that generate an estimated annual income of almost $150,000 million and more than $20 million annually in new taxes. By 2002 the value of surrounding properties, which had been declining due to “superfund stigma,” had increased by more than $15 million.

The Reverend Bruce Young, former pastor of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Woburn and leader in the community’s struggle with contamination, offered the following testimonial supporting the EPA’s decision to award Ms. Brooks and the Industri-plex Project Team the National Phoenix Award for Excellence in Brownfields Redevelopment,  “There is no more powerful example of life emerging out of the dust of death and despair…To have done what RRSM has accomplished in Woburn truly merits...the Phoenix Award, [which] will stand as a beacon of hope and offer a blueprint of management excellence to those who look at brownfields and ask, ‘How can we ever remediate this site?  It’s so large and complex.’  The answer – the model – is found at the Industri-plex 128.”

In an unprecedented decision (subsequently upheld by the United States Supreme Court), the Chief Judge of the Federal District Court (WD-MI) appointed Ms. Brooks the Third-Party Trustee for the Production Plated Plastics (PPP) Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) federal hazardous waste site in Richland, Michigan. As Trustee for the PPP Site, Ms. Brooks’ responsibilities included the sale of “brownfield” sites in the United States and Canada to fund RCRA compliance. Her successful negotiations with private developers and the U.S. Department of Justice removed an EPA lien encumbering an abandoned manufacturing plant in Michigan City, Indiana, paving the way for its conversion to a light manufacturing and distribution center.

Ms. Brooks also helped launch the redevelopment of the Woolfolk Superfund Site in Fort Valley, Georgia. Working closely with the community, she designed a redevelopment plan and secured funds for new, affordable housing, making Woolfolk one of the first community-sponsored redevelopments that incorporated land use into the remedy selection. Brooks is or has also led the community-based remediation or redevelopment of seven large (up to 1,000 acres), highly contaminated, privately owned state and federal superfund sites in New York, West Virginia, Connecticut, Arkansas, Illinois, and Massachusetts, as well as several military bases proposed for closure under BRAC.

Governmental, non-governmental, and academic organizations have sought Ms. Brooks’ counsel and expertise on numerous brownfield initiatives, training programs, and studies and policy reviews covering issues, such as land use and remedy selection; long-term stewardship of contaminated property; application of trust concepts in resolving complex site, clean-up, and reuse issues; design and implementation of land use restrictions (institutional controls); strategies for accelerating the clean-up and reuse of DoD BRAC sites.

At the request of the Undersecretary for Defense, for three years Ms. Brooks was the sole representative from the private sector asked to serve on the Panel of Judges for the DoD Environmental Quality Awards presented annually by the Secretary of Defense to the four branches of the military. Ms. Brooks is also a frequent guest, invited speaker, and lecturer at national and regional conferences, seminars, and training programs on brownfields and contaminated property transactions. In June of 2006, she taught the first course in Brownfields Redevelopment to be offered at the Center for Real Estate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Ms. Brooks is currently partnering with the Global Environmental Technology Foundation (GETF) on the use of independent “trusts” to remediate and revitalize contaminated properties.

Ms. Brooks’ prior experience includes almost a decade in the oil industry.  Until 1987, she was responsible for managing Exxon’s facility and reservoir operating interests in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay – the largest oilfield in North America.  Earlier Ms. Brooks led a $2 billion new Alaska venture and directed Exxon’s arctic frontier technology efforts.  Her public sector experience includes brief assignments to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), on the congressional staff of Senator J. Abourezk (SD), and at the Marine Physical Laboratory of Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  Brooks graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Duke University and earned her Masters in Business Administration with honors from the Harvard Business School.

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