Collections > Master's Papers > Department of City and Regional Planning > Re-imagining the Land: Alternative Futures for Brownscape Redevelopment: The Delaware Waterfront, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Brownfields are abandoned or underutilized sites, often associated with industry, that contain some degree of real or perceived contamination. Rather than posing a serious human health or environmental threat, the key concern regarding brownfield properties is the persistence of vacancy and neglect resulting from the contamination associated with them. This centrally located urban land is often overlooked in favor of greenfield properties on the outskirts of cities, contributing to urban disinvestment and suburban sprawl. Reinvestment in these properties increases the local tax base and facilitates job growth. Brownfields redevelopment also utilizes existing infrastructure and takes development pressures off of undeveloped land at the urban fringe. With an estimated 500,000 brownfield properties currently existing in the United States, many state and federal funding opportunities have emerged to assess, clean-up and reuse these properties. Brownfields have come about in different ways and for different reasons. Some sites, such as former gas stations, are scattered throughout the landscape in rather isolated patches. These sites contribute to the contamination of water systems and surrounding land, but addressing redevelopment of these sites involves a focus on a particular site. On the other hand, some brownfield sites are concentrated en masse in a particular locale, establishing a brownscape. Often, this concentration arose from 19th and 20th century land use practices, where industry was typically sited along river and rail corridors. Because brownfields are pervasive in these corridors, the problems normally associated with brownfield sites are compounded there. Over the last few decades, brownfields policy has emphasized the redevelopment potential of brownfields land, promoting the infusion of private development dollars to individual sites, often at the expense of cleanup of contamination and the overall ecological and social functioning of the entire corridor. These site specific policies are not designed to address the scale of contamination or the ecological and social conditions associated with brownfields corridors. Critics have described this scenario as 'environmental apartheid', where cities or areas of a city with a disproportionate share of brownfields are subjected to a permanent loosening of environmental standards. Other approaches to the redevelopment of the brownscape may be more successful at addressing the entire brownscape. This study presents an alternative redevelopment strategy for one brownscape, the Delaware Waterfront in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which incorporates information about ecological processes and human use patterns associated with brownfields corridors into planning and design. To evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy for addressing the complexity of the brownscape, this scenario will be compared with a conventional scenario, where individual sites along the riverfront are developed site-by-site through the decision making of individual stakeholders. The comparison will proceed based on the Alternative Futures framework articulated by Carl Steinitz and others. This Alternative Futures methodology employs GIS-based simulation modeling and visualization to consider the consequences of various planning and design decisions. Once the scenarios are developed, they will be assessed for their ability to meet defined goals for brownscape redevelopment. This assessment will be based on specific measures associated with the goals of brownscape redevelopment. While the assessment of alternative future scenarios for the North Delaware Waterfront will offer insight into the impacts of potential design decisions, a larger goal for the project will be to identify design strategies that may be applied to other redevelopment areas with a preponderance of marginal land.