Friday, September 25, 2009


Brownfields are abandoned or underused industrial and commercial facilities available for re-use. Expansion or redevelopment of such a facility may be complicated by real or perceived environmental contaminations.

In the United States city planning jargon, Brownfield land (or simply a Brownfield) is land previously used for industrial purposes or certain commercial uses. The land may be contaminated by low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution, and has the potential to be reused once it is cleaned up. Land that is more severely contaminated and has high concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution, such as a Superfund site, does not fall under the Brownfield classification. Mothballed Brownfields are properties which the owners are not willing to transfer or put to productive reuse.

The term brownfields first came into use on June 28, 1992, at a U.S Congressional field hearing hosted by the Northeast Midwest Congressional Coalition. Also in 1992, the first detailed policy analysis of the issue was convened by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission. The United States Environmental Protection Agency selected Cuyahoga County as its first Brownfield pilot project in September 1993.

Generally, Brownfield sites exist in a city's or town's industrial section, on locations with abandoned factories or commercial buildings, or other previously polluting operations. Small brownfields also may be found in many older residential neighborhoods. For example, many dry cleaning establishments or gas stations produced high levels of subsurface contaminants during prior operations, and the land they occupy might sit idle for decades as a Brownfield.

Some state governments restrict development of Brownfield sites to particular uses in order to minimize exposure to leftover contaminants on-site after the cleanup is completed; such properties are deed-restricted in their future usage. Some legally require that such areas are reused for housing or for new commercial use in order not to destroy further arable land. The redevelopment of Brownfield sites is a significant part of new urbanism. Some brownfields are left as green spaces for recreational uses.

For historical reasons, many Brownfield sites are close to important thoroughfares such as highways and rivers; their reclamation can therefore be a major asset to a city. An example of this is the Atlantic Station project in Atlanta, the largest Brownfield redevelopment in the United States. In Seattle, rusted remains of a gas factory were left in place to add character to Gas Works Park.

But one of the most well-known areas in the United States for Brownfield redevelopment is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which has successfully converted numerous former steel mill sites into high-end residential, shopping and offices. Several examples of Brownfield redevelopment in Pittsburgh include the following:
  • The Waterfront in Homestead, Pennsylvania previously occupied by Carnegie Steel
  • Summerset at Frick Park in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood
  • Southside Works, a mixed-use development in the South Side neighborhood
  • Pittsburgh Technology Center in the Hazelwood (Pittsburgh) neighborhood
  • Washington’s Landing, a waterfront center for commerce, manufacturing, and housing in Herr's Island
For more information about Brownfield Regeneration: Sustainable Brownfield Regeneration: Liveable Places from Problem Spaces by Tim Dixon, Mike Raco, Philip Catney, and David N. Lerner.

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I just wanted to take a moment to send a personal message out to all those in the fields of Landscape Architecture, Gardening, Horticulture, and Urban Planning/Urban Ecology. I created Landscape Connections for the purpose to share my love and passion for Landscape Architecture and Design, and Urban Ecology. I was a Landscape Architecture Major at Utah State University and currently study Urban Ecology at the University of Utah. I am working to compile as much information in the four previously mentioned fields as possible. If you have any further information, or would like to either add information or see information posted to landscape connections please let me know.