Those pesky Brownfield sites can create great opportunities or can be worrisome problems. In Richmond, Virginia Brownfield sites can be found in many locations throughout the city.
Brownfield sites are defined as “old abandoned industrial properties where potential hazardous or unsafe materials might exist.”
Over time, brownfields can infect a community with major problems like pollution, soil contamination, and blight. But while every urban planning is fully aware of the importance of removing these properties from their communities, what is not understood is why this type of revitalization is only happening in wealthy neighborhoods.
The city of Richmond is one such city where this type of urban planning continues to happen. However, over the last decade the city has worked hard at revitalizing old industrial buildings throughout the city. This has lead to the renewed interest by residents in many of these communities. Yet, most of the rehabbing has happened in neighborhoods like Church Hill where the cost of rehabbing can be cheap for builders but expensive for residents. Consequently, this has caused an increase in the amount of rundown brownfields in low-income neighborhoods. In essence, it has become increasingly clear to residents that the city’s revitalization efforts simply will not happen in these communities because of their low value and low interest.
Many urban planners have argued that contemporary brownfield redevelopment doesn't happen because of the relative cost for Richmond. However, it is my belief that there are 5 major reasons why Richmond gets brownfield redevelopment wrong altogether.
- Brownfield restoration has been slow to take root in neighborhoods where numerous brownfield sites exist;
- Little investment in low-income neighborhoods (Blackwell);
- Few incentives are provided to encourage investments in brownfields;
- Gentrification continues to occur in poor neighborhoods (Church Hill);
- Slow Brownfield redevelopment has created more problems over time (crime, pollution, public health).
Where do you think that Brownfield redevelopment goes wrong in your community?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.