Monday, February 28, 2011


I recently attended the EPA's webinar about brownfields as catalysts for successful and innovative area wide planning efforts. You can learn more about the 23 pilot projects and respective communities at NALGEP and from the EPA.

The concept of adaptively reusing brownfields is something that will prove to be more and more important as we continue to understand shrinking cities and urban redevelopment. What's more interesting, and highlighted in the brownfield area wide planning pilot, is the idea of utilizing adaptive reuse or redevelopment to spawn community revitalization. This methodology seeks to look further than just site specific reuse and, instead, understand how entire neighborhood's and communities can reap the benefits of transforming a vacant, under utilized landscape.

This basic principle identifies the post-industrial landscape as multi-dimensional and able to plug into the surrounding landscape in numerous ways. It is this notion that opens the door for discussing adaptive reuse as it relates to area wide planning. Since there are so many different potential reuse scenarios for any given post-industrial site or region it is possible to think of how many different benefits these scenarios can have for the local people and landscape. Furthermore, it will be the ability to understand and build upon precedent cases of successful brownfield reuse and learn about the successful components of each project.

A disclaimer: This is only a fraction of the complexity that engulfs the post-industrial landscape. This idea spawns from a more pragmatic vantage point and does not even begin to address the theoretical constructs that reside within the realm adaptive reuse and the manipulation of cultural landscapes and infrastructural identities. However, in cities like Cleveland and Detroit, and the opposite end of the spectrum, the Brooklyn Waterfront and the current and proposed development of the Highline, it will be the reuse, redevelopment and re-integration of post-industrial sites, neighborhood's and culture into an ever changing landscape dynamic that will be an arena of innovation.

There is much to learn and there is no doubt that we will continue to look towards the vacancies of urban America as the catalysts for regrowth and transformation.

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