Spring 2019 -TBD - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Spring 2019 -TBD - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Brownfield Seminar: Redeveloping Contaminated Land

Brownfields typically are abandoned, idled, or underused industrial or commercial land and buildings where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. The cleanup and subsequent expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of these properties is deterred by fears of liability from lawsuits under federal and state environmental laws (the most significant being federal and state Superfund statutes) and a great many uncertainties that surround redevelopment of contaminated lands (e.g., continuing site stigma, clean-up cost over runs, and public-private financing difficulties to name just a few).  Yet, redevelopment of brownfields offers some of the best opportunities to realize sustainable community development ideals when brownfield sites or brownfield sections of a city are planned, designed and developed to be ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable.

For example, cleaning up and reinvesting in these brownfields (infill development) can reduce development pressure off undeveloped, open land on the periphery of urban areas, which both improves and protects the environment from a watershed scale. Efforts to create green buildings as part of the design can help to conserve energy, water and materials and create healthy indoor and outdoor environments. Adaptive reuse of existing buildings, deconstruction, and reuse or recycling of on-site materials can not only divert materials from landfills, reduce pollution associated with the manufacturing and use of new materials, and capture the embedded value of used materials, but can also create revenue and more jobs than utilizing traditional materials and methods (i.e. demolition).  

Brownfield redevelopment can reintroduce open space in the City, and when designed well, can restore natural habitat, day light old drainage ways back into viable urban stream corridors, and can create much needed recreational areas in the urban and suburban core.  The greening of brownfields can help to mitigate other adverse environmental impacts of development, such as the urban heat-island effect, elevated flood stages, water quality impacts and fragmented open space. In some cases, eco-industrial parks are created at brownfield sites where a combination of manufacturing and service businesses co-locate to coordinate their collective resource needs and processes so ideally they form a zero-emissions, closed-loop eco-park (i.e., the waste output from one manufacturer becomes an input for another manufacturer, and so on throughout the park). Eco-industrial parks, when designed and implemented well will increase the efficient use of raw materials, minimize waste outputs, conserve energy and natural resources, reduce transportation requirements, and provide an aesthetically attractive place to work.  Since many brownfields are associated with areas that have high unemployment rates, job training programs can be established to allow local residents an opportunity to qualify for jobs created as a result of brownfields redevelopment efforts. Moreover, planning and design of brownfields must be “community-based” to ensure that adverse effects of gentrification are minimized and that “industry attraction” programs actually address the surrounding community needs and concerns.

Brownfields redevelopment is also an integral component of “smart growth.”  By redeveloping a brownfield in an older city or suburban neighborhood, a community can remove blight and environmental contamination, create a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization, lessen development pressure at the urban edge, and use existing infrastructure.  

This class uses a Sustainable Community Development framework as the basis for learning about the practice of brownfield redevelopment.  The class will use readings, case examples, field trips, guest speakers, videos and class discussions to explore the environmental, legal, fiscal, social, and economic dimensions of sustainable brownfield redevelopment.  

Each year the class adopts a local brownfield for a “case study” project.  More information on the class project site will be discussed in greater detail on the first day of class.   Prior class sites included the Grove Blvd Landfill in Montopolis, CapMetro’s Plaza Saltillo, and UTs Pickle Campus waste site.

TTH 12:30pm to 2:00pm