July 06 2012

5 Ways Brownfield Redevelopment Practices Have Gone Wrong in Richmond, Virginia

Fulton Gas Works, Richmond Virginia, BrownfieldThose pesky Brownfield sites can create great opportunities or can be worrisome problems. In Richmond, Virginia Brownfield sites can be found in many locations throughout the city.

Brownfield sites are defined as “old abandoned industrial properties where potential hazardous or unsafe materials might exist.”

Over time, brownfields can infect a community with major problems like pollution, soil contamination, and blight. But while every urban planning is fully aware of the importance of removing these properties from their communities, what is not understood is why this type of revitalization is only happening in wealthy neighborhoods.

The city of Richmond is one such city where this type of urban planning continues to happen. However, over the last decade the city has worked hard at revitalizing old industrial buildings throughout the city. This has lead to the renewed interest by residents in many of these communities. Yet, most of the rehabbing has happened in neighborhoods like Church Hill where the cost of rehabbing can be cheap for builders but expensive for residents. Consequently, this has caused an increase in the amount of rundown brownfields in low-income neighborhoods. In essence, it has become increasingly clear to residents that the city’s revitalization efforts simply will not happen in these communities because of their low value and low interest.

Many urban planners have argued that contemporary brownfield redevelopment doesn’t happen because of the relative cost for Richmond. However, it is my belief that there are 5 major reasons why Richmond gets brownfield redevelopment wrong altogether.

  • Brownfield restoration has been slow to take root in neighborhoods where numerous brownfield sites exist;
  • Little investment in low-income neighborhoods (Blackwell);
  • Few incentives are provided to encourage investments in brownfields;
  • Gentrification continues to occur in poor neighborhoods (Church Hill);
  • Slow Brownfield redevelopment has created more problems over time (crime, pollution, public health).

Richmond’s contemporary planning needs to go well beyond rehabbing old factories in poor areas and should strive to make these communities sustainable.

Where do you think that Brownfield redevelopment goes wrong in your community?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Jamaal Davis

Jamaal Davis has lived in Richmond, Virginia for over 37 years, where he was born and raised. He studied Urban and Regional Planning at Virginia Commonwealth University. His interests in urban planning began in the low-income neighborhoods of Southside Richmond, Virginia. As a result of those years, he has made it his goal to affect change in his community by changing its surroundings. His passion for planning lies in his desire to understand and change the housing conditions in low-income neighborhoods. He is currently working for a private consulting firm, but he plans on obtaining a planning position within a local government. His ultimate goal is to work for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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This entry was posted on Friday, July 6th, 2012 at 11:52 pm and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environment, Environmental Non-Profit, Infrastructure, 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.


2 Responses to “5 Ways Brownfield Redevelopment Practices Have Gone Wrong in Richmond, Virginia”

  1. Patricia Says:

    Jamaal, Thanks for this insightful analysis of brownfield redevelopment. Unfortunately, gentrification and selective development are too common across the United States. I think that local governments CAN promote brownfield redevelopment in areas that need it more by providing development incentives, tax breaks, application expedition etc. The harder work comes with making these communities sustainable, vibrant, AND affordable. It’s a long, difficult process and planners as well as community members must be patient once the ball gets rolling. Great entry! Thanks again, Patricia

  2. Jamaal Davis Says:

    Thank you Patricia,

    You make some excellent points. Making decisions about how to develop brownfields is both a difficult task and a group effort. I just believe that many planners and community members sometimes take the wrong approach to this process. But you are right, the process is a long one that requires teamwork and patience. Thanks for reading my entry.


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