Abandoned urban lots are community eyesores that increasingly represent economic opportunity.These so-called brownfields carry social ills, but finding a way to reuse them is more important than ever. Local officials tap jobs programs, private investment, bond sales, tax incentives, cultural history and other measures for what might be the ultimate city recycling projects.
The Lake Erie shore is scarred here with remnants of another time. But amidst the eyesores is evidence of Buffalo’s exciting future. Eight wind turbines hint at a broader redevelopment. Local officials are using the past to prepare for the future and revive a city from economic shock.
The nation’s largest urban solar plant is built on a Chicago industrial site once contaminated by lead paint. It’s part of an alternative energy trend: Using abandoned urban properties to generate power where people live. Alternative energy production is a new force for redeveloping abandoned urban land that also helps cut transmission costs
The Fort Piqua Hotel hosted three U.S. presidents and rallies for the Women’s Suffrage and the Prohibition movements. It saw some of the first sit-ins in support of Civil Rights. That past ensured its future. In Ohio, 90 percent of brownfield sites receiving state grants are demolished instead of revitalized.
As traditional brownfield redevelopment funds dwindle, state and local officials see creative tax incentives and other measures to finance new uses of urban land. Michigan officials are converting a truck factory to a movie studio as part of a raft of incentives they hope will jumpstart a Midwest movie industry.
A Wisconsin city looks to an increasing emphasis on job creation as a motivation for brownfield redevelopment. Racine wants to eliminate contaminated urban sites and attract business at the same time. They’re tackling the job with a $1 million federal grant to prime a revolving loan program.
Faced with unoccupied land and a scarcity of fresh, healthy foods, Detroit is reviving its long-standing tradition of urban agriculture. Urban farming experiments have long been confined to nonprofit organizations. But a Detroit entrepreneur has proposed commercial farming in the Motor City.