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The Economic and Social Impacts of Brownfield Redevelopment - Case Study: Struggle for Neighborhood Redevelopment in the State of New Jersey


Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where the city of Cleveland is located, is one of the counties in the declining rustbelt region. It was incorporated into the steel belt with its diverse industry of steel and iron manufacturing, machine tool companies, and chemical production. However, the post-industrial decline drives Cuyahoga County into severe population loss and an increasing number of vacant manufacturing facilities.

Table 3. Descriptive profile for Cuyahoga County and Cleveland (Woo and Lee 2016).

case study cuyahoga county table 1

Based from the profile of Cuyahoga County (Table 3) in 2000 and 2010, the County has a high percentage of non-Hispanic whites. On the other hand, Cleveland, the core of the county, has a high percentage of ethnic minorities and lower median family income and housing value. This descriptive profile shows that Cleveland is inhabited with the disadvantaged, while the advantaged population are along the border of the city.

A study conducted by Woo and Lee (2016) examined the impacts of brownfield redevelopment across different neighborhoods stratified by family income. Woo and Lee focused on isolating the causal impacts of developing these brownfields. From their initial countywide model, these brownfield sites showed a negative impact on surrounding housing prices. When compared to the control sales prices, the housing price level for impact sales was significantly lower. However, after the redevelopment of the brownfields, no observed evidence of negative impact was present. Additionally, the post-price level showed no significant difference between the control and impact areas. The study indicated that “public investment in brownfield redevelopment helps erase the negative impacts of brownfields due to deindustrialization and helps increase housing prices for single-family income” (Woo and Lee 2016).

Woo and Lee also found that the impacts of brownfield redevelopments varied across different neighborhoods. They saw positive impacts of brownfield remediation on surrounding neighborhood prices especially in low- and middle-income neighborhoods (Figure 1).

case study cuyahoga county figure 1

Figure 1. Low- and middle-income neighborhood results (Woo and Lee 2016).

Figure 1 shows the result for low- and middle-income neighborhoods. The housing price level for low-income neighborhood before development was in the negative (-9.5), indicating that the price level for impact sales was 9.5 percent lower than that of the control sales. However, after development, the variable was positive (+11.5), indicating that the price level for impact sales was 11.5 percent higher than that of the control sales. This result showed that brownfield remediation in the low-income neighborhoods increased the housing price level from -9.5 percent to 11.5 percent.

As other studies have indicated (Farber 1998, Garvin et al. 2013, LaGrange 1999, Ley and Cybriwsky 1974, Park and Ciorici 2013, Stucky and Ottensmann 2009, Suresh and Vito 2009), disadvantaged neighborhoods, those containing low-income populations, are more sensitive and benefits greatly from brownfield redevelopments. Woo and Lee proved that brownfield redevelopments in disadvantaged neighborhoods provided the greatest benefit to surrounding housing prices.

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