The International Information Center for Geotechnical Engineers

The Economic and Social Impacts of Brownfield Redevelopment



At an alarming number of 450,000 in the United States (as estimated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)), brownfields have become an important part of urban redevelopment. Out of the 450,000 brownfields estimated, Detroit, Michigan is home to about 1,000 of them (MDEQ 2017). This paper aimed to lay out the basics behind brownfield policy using Detroit, Michigan, as a backdrop. Brownfield sites are often contaminated with hazardous pollutants, which hinder their full potential usage. Revitalizing these sites would prove to be beneficial for the surrounding neighborhoods, positively impacting the environment and society. Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Brownfield Law, the redevelopment and revitalization of these brownfield sites is actively promoted through grant funding. However, the environmental remediation and redevelopment of brownfields is not an easy task. Liability and regulation reliefs, along with economic incentives are needed to attract the interest of communities, policymakers, and public and private organizations. However, the result of the remediation is beneficial. Cleanup of brownfield sites increases nearby housing values and positively impacts the welfare of the communities nearby (Haninger 2017). It also helps provide space that fosters community, which increases the perceived value of properties in that community (Kotoval 2016). Additionally, a case study conducted in New Jersey (Greenberg et al 2000) showed that brownfields located in neighborhoods with high crime rates and poor and unsafe living conditions, seriously impact their surrounding neighborhoods and residents’, as well as the governments’, perception of these sites. Cleaning up brownfields would have a clear positive impact socially for those who live around them.

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