November 05 2012

Infill Development: Towards an Innovative Approach to Redevelopment

The Hub Site Plan

It is no secret that vacant lots pose difficult challenges by influencing crime and the vitality of residential and commercial areas, which furthermore decreases tax bases and property values for urban areas. It is important now more than ever to address the surplus of vacant lots and properties, which despite good intentions and modest success, existing planning and urban revitalization policies fail to effectively address in terms of both physical and social conditions. With new multi-modal transportation initiatives, Minneapolis has the potential to incorporate creative solutions into redevelopment. It is time to abandon the traditional chain and big box store, conversion to condo space and retail malls engulfed by a sea of parking spots approach (which will eventually become outdated) and start incorporating more innovative elements, exemplifying smart growth principles.

Take the example of City of Richfield’s “the Hub center. Bordering south Minneapolis, the once retail and service destination has become another outdated strip mall bordered by widely congested corridors channeling into an endless parking maze. The lack of versatility in retail adds to the deteriorating exterior. Recently, this area has been experiencing a transformation by incorporating local and entrepreneurial businesses, mixed-income housing complexes, community spaces and incentives/grants for local business owners for streetscaping.

It may take time until this area experiences a full transformation, but the city is taking an innovative and non-traditional approach to the re-development of vacant properties with the capital they have. Looking to this as an example, there are principles that cities should incorporate when dealing with infill development:

  • First and foremost, urban planners must develop new policies that reflect today’s social and physical landscape transformation;
  • Incentives to attract entrepreneurs and local businesses;
  • Grants for existing businesses for streetscape improvements and landscape design;
  • Right-sizing via green infrastructure;
  • Public spaces that create unique experiences;
  • Variety in housing and retail;
  • Success in terms of regional impact (i.e. multi-modal transportation);
  • Compact/Accessible (i.e. all shopping and daily-errands can be completed in one area within walking distance);
  • Private/Public Partnerships and Neighborhood Consensus.

There will be no shortage in abandoned and/or vacant properties, and what cities can do is focus the limited resources they have on incorporating green technologies and initiatives in order to create density rather than build out.

What innovative approach or type of re-development would you like to see take place on vacant lots in your urban center?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Jasna Hadzic

Born and raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but having spent most of her adult life in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A.; Jasna Hadzic has been greatly influenced by both cultures, most specifically in terms of architecture, planning, and design. The transition of living in a small European pedestrian-oriented city to a large and vehicle-oriented American city greatly influenced her interest in the field of planning. She came to appreciate the vibrant, culturally diverse and faster-pace of life, while also looking toward her native city as a paradigm of sustainable living with traditional architecture, multi-modal transportation systems, and pedestrian-friendly spaces and streets. A recent Master’s graduate in Community and Regional Planning and G.I.S from Iowa State University, Jasna’s Thesis focused on the analysis of the built environment and demographic factors that influence physical activity, while examining street connectivity and infrastructure. In addition, Jasna holds a B.E.D. in Environmental Design, with a minor in Urban Studies, from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Her most recent work experience as a Planning Research Assistant at the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, as well as volunteer work with the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity has exposed her to new city projects, as well as community engagement. Her career goal is to not only work directly on sustainable urban design projects, but to also ensure equitable and sustainable planning practices.

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 5th, 2012 at 11:14 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Land Use, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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