Many of these case studies were pulled from a repository of information about previous Area Wide Plan Grant winners from 2010, 2013, 2015, and 2017. Over the years, the BRIGHT Team has studied these various Area Wide Plans and used the resulting findings as the underpinnings of the BRIGHT Guide.
Below are a few categories to help orient this chapter and guide you to the case study that most closely reflects your community's features and characteristics.
The following case studies explore corridor projects that were near a waterway, had limited land zoned for residential use, were moderately effective in centering the perspectives of the most marginalized and local stakeholders, and successfully leveraged a wide variety of funds:
The following case studies explore corridor projects that had to remediate a large amount of environmental contamination, lacked a significant mix of funding sources, yet implemented a grassroots redevelopment plan that prioritized the needs and elevated the voices of the corridors’ predominantly impoverished and minority populace:
The following case studies explore corridor projects that were successful in their remediation of brownfields and implementation of new sustainable land uses, but often at the expense of the desires and wellbeing of their marginalized residents:
The Milwaukee Department of City Development approved a comprehensive “Harbor District Water and Land Use Plan” in December 2017, which highlights overarching development goals for the neighborhood known as the Harbor District. This neighborhood is at the confluence of the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic Rivers and Lake Michigan and includes the Jones Island peninsula, which juts out into the lake. The plan for redevelopment of this central neighborhood was compiled by Harbor District, Inc., a nonprofit overseeing the project in partnership with several other community organizations.
The redevelopment project is designed to provide space for a variety of land uses in a walkable, urban neighborhood that serves a diverse group of people through employment opportunities, business development, housing options, and public spaces. The EPA’s Area-Wide Planning grant is specific to the Greenfield Ave sub-district, which is one of seven sub-districts included in the plan. The Greenfield Ave sub-district is located along the inner harbor waterfront and is bounded by the Greenfield slip, the Kinnickinnic River, and the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
The land and waterways comprising the Harbor District were originally part of a vast marsh. Starting in the mid-1800s, the wetlands were filled to create land for factories and warehouses. With easy access to rail lines and ships coming up the river and a large labor pool from dense neighborhoods nearby, this area became a focal point of early industrial Milwaukee. Beginning in the 1960s, Milwaukee saw a drop in industrial production, and properties transitioned to warehousing and storage uses as factories closed or moved. In the 1980s and 1990s, more properties became vacant and abandoned.
As it stands now, The Harbor District is approximately 888 acres with nearly half of its land in public ownership. At the time the Plan was issued, about half of the neighborhood was identified as being used for “transportation and utilities,” (46 percent), with “industrial” (17.8 percent), and vacant (13.7 percent) as the next most common land uses. There was no residential use of land along the waterfront and very little land used for public space.
The Solvay Coke & Gas Company Brownfield is located in the Greenfield Ave subdistrict and consists of 46 acres of industrial and commercial area. Various industrial uses at the site dating back to the 1800s included coke and manufactured gas production, recovery of byproducts, coal storage and transportation, rail car ferrying operations, blast furnace operations, and tannery operations.
The recommended removal action include steps to: stabilize and cap oily soil, excavate and dispose of possible cyanide-contaminated soil and material containing asbestos, remove piping that may pose a threat to surface water, install a cover over the site, install a groundwater monitoring well network, and implement institutional controls such as deed restrictions, restrictive covenants, and protective easements.
The estimated cost of cleanup is $15.9 million. The site owner, We Energies, is doing clean up under EPA oversight. The latest update on the EPA website indicates that the property was fenced and secured in 2017, in-place stabilization of the waste was completed in March of 2020, and offsite shipment of waste started on June 8, 2020.
There were several funding sources leveraged for this project. The EPA AWPG grant (specific to the Greenfield Ave sub-district) provided $200,000, the State of Wisconsin’s Coastal Management Grant program provided $50,000, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation provided $40,000 (through Milwaukee County), the City of Milwaukee's Advance Planning Fund contributed $50,000, and the Bloomberg Award for Partners for Places Grant Program awarded a $75,000 grant.
The project area also has momentum from recent projects that include UW-Milwaukee's $53 million School of Freshwater Sciences (opened Sept. 2014), and an ongoing $48 million Freshwater Plaza project, which is a seven-acre development project slated to include a 72-unit apartment building, a 42,000-square-foot Cermak Food Market, and other commercial space. The Bloomberg Partners for Places Award followed the EPA AWPG grant, and a coalition of local funders matched the $75,000, demonstrating how initial funding can lead others to invest.
The impacts of the Harbor District’s revitalization plan are still evolving. The AWP itself outlines recommendations for each sub-district and contains a section on implementation that details each action item, responsible parties, resources required, and general timeline associated with each recommendation. Many of the recommendations are labeled as long term and ongoing.
The plan outlines 36 recommendations for the Greenfield Ave sub-district in seven categories: land use, building forms, transportation and utilities, public space, stormwater, habitat, and public art. The overall vision for the sub-district is to create a new employment and recreation center that provides a variety of job types, modern and sustainable buildings for office, lab, research, and light industrial employees, and new waterfront public spaces.
The major strengths of the project include extensive public engagement and an emphasis on generating creative development ideas. More than 2,000 individuals participated in the process and provided input on the plan through extensive one-on-one interviews, focus groups, district tours, public meetings, surveys, and social media outreach. One unique method used to generate creative development ideas was the project’s use of a “Design Charette” – a two-day workshop in which four design teams (selected from 16 team applications) developed comprehensive plans for maximizing the potential of the waterfront. Public engagement events like this one attracted media attention, which likely attracted additional funding.
A weakness of this project may be overambitious timelines. The Harbor District is large and composed of several sub-districts, and while the project appears to be ongoing, some of the timelines from the website already seem outdated. An actual updated completion timeline does not seem to be available. This weakness could shake community confidence in the project and undermine the initial goodwill gained by the extensive public engagement in the planning stages. The community could also perceive the unavailability of an updated timeline as a lack of transparency by the project planners.
The Indy East Promise Zone is a 3,600 acre urban district created by the federal government to direct resources to the area in an effort to combat poverty and blight. The EPA awarded Near East Area Renewal (NEAR) a grant to develop a plan and implementation strategy for the area. The project planned the cleaning and redevelopment of the catalyst brownfield, a 45-acre industrial site called GE Sherman Park, located in the heart of the zone. This catalyst site, like other former industrial sites in the area, posed an obstacle to economic development in the area and a serious health risk to residents.
In 2017 and 2019, the city of Indianapolis was awarded two additional grants within the Promise Zone at the Twin Adair and Black Mountain sites, respectively. The project's main goals were to create healthy commercial corridors, address and recognize environmental justice concerns through brownfield reuse and remediation, and increase job opportunities for residents in the area. As of 2019, the steering committee was successful in removing the designated hazards that aggravated the community for so long, and in creating new sustainable commercial and industrial enterprises from the remediation of brownfields.
The “Near Eastside” of Indianapolis has historically been an area abundant with manufacturing jobs and industrial sites. From the 1920s to the early 2000s, the area has been used for electronics assembly, plastics manufacturing, and housing heavy machinery. The Sherman Park site was mostly used for the RCA (formerly the Radio Corporation of America) manufacturing facility that built radios, televisions, and other electronics. However, with the decline of the local economy in the early 2000s and the exiting of manufacturing jobs due to outsourcing and automation, the area began to suffer from blight, underinvestment, and concentrated poverty.
It is estimated that the abandonment of Sherman Park by employers “undoubtedly contributed to the 29 percent increase in unemployment in the 46201 ZIP code between 2000 and 2015, along with the 21.5 percent drop in population that occurred over the same period.”
According to the AWP, the Near East is home to a “primarily impoverished and minority demographic living in a deteriorating urban environment with little connectivity to amenities or access to local waterways.” Currently, with a population of 17,000, nearly 40% live in poverty, while the unemployment rate is 29%. The average household income in the area is just $26,000 a year, while nearly 40% of the population over the age of 25 did not complete high school. As a result, the residents of the area banded together to develop a comprehensive, grassroots approach to neighborhood revitalization.
The main catalyst site of the 2017 grant was Sherman Park, a 50-acre industrial site that was once a booming economic hub for the city. The site accommodated around 8,000 workers and housed General Electric, an RCA factory, and successively a Thomson Consumer Electronics facility. However, due to job automation and capital flight, Thomson Consumer Electronics decided to close the facility.
Subsequently, the site became known to local residents as an eyesore and epicenter of homicide in Indianapolis. And due to almost a century of industrial practices, the area suffered from environmental contamination. The Sherman Park site housed five known underground storage tanks ranging from 1,000 to 230,000 gallons that leaked many pollutants including petroleum, chlorinated solvents, and heavy metals such as lead and mercury.
The Black Mountain site is also in the Promise Zone and was assessed and remediated in 2019. Black Mountain nickname given to a 120,000 ton pile of used toxic foundry sands located in the 3500 block of East Washington Street. The mountain began to form in 1999 when the land was leased to a recycling company that struck a deal with a local foundry. “Sands from the pile are blown around by wind, spreading contamination and causing problems for neighbors who live near the site . . . cleanup at the site has been continually delayed as different parties have refused to take responsibility for the issue and have been locked in legal battles.” As a result, the Department of Business and Neighborhood services and the Department of Metropolitan Development implemented “emergency demolition and blight elimination at the site.”
The key stakeholder to the project were NEAR, a promise zone implementation partner representing about a dozen Near East Side neighborhood organizations; the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development, which owns the Sherman Park property and represents the city; and the John Boner Neighborhood Center, the city’s official partner for the promise zone that provides the administrative capacity to manage redevelopment projects and grant programs.
NEAR emphasized community collaboration and planning when developing the AWP and provided a finished product that allowed community members to have a say in what developments were happening in their neighborhoods and outlined the needs of the community before listing the kinds of redevelopment possible. The AWP also notes that the Steering Committee and residents were in unison on planning and redevelopment goals.
Financing & Impacts
In 2017, the EPA awarded NEAR a $200,000 grant from the EPA that will be used to facilitate community involvement, coordinate revitalization efforts, and perform analysis of existing conditions and infrastructure within the area. The EPA also awarded the City of Indianapolis another Brownfields Assessment Grant in 2017 that studied a former industrial site within the Promise Zone but wasn’t exclusively limited to it.
These two grants totaled $300,000 for the assessment of Sherman Park and Twin Aire and were renewed again in 2018. Indianapolis also received a $600,000 Brownfields Multipurpose grant that it used to plan for the assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment planning of the Black Mountain site.
The plan for all sites was to engage the community in the process leading up to assessment, examine communal needs, document and investigate contamination, take inventory and prioritize the different parcels, and then plan for cleanup. NEAR and the steering community completed all of these tasks through the AWP and cleanup process, which provided a new vision for the Promise Zone that allowed for community growth, job creation, and sustainable infrastructure. One example of this is Recycle Force, a nonprofit workforce reentry organization that recycles electronic goods, which has acquired a remediated parcel in the Sherman Park site to serve as its base of operations. RecycleForce has provided workforce training and job placement to over 1,200 people transitioning out of the criminal justice system, and now that they have a permanent home, they can do so for many years to come.
The Indy East Promise Zone is a good example of how collaborating with the community and prioritizing their needs and concerns can be a gateway for productive and beneficial sustainable development efforts. Though the city was involved in planning and implementation, this project was community-driven, and many residents within the area were informed, involved, and working together for a common goal.
From the outset, the steering committee communicated with residents about their preferences for redevelopment and what they wanted their neighborhood to look like. The committee took note of the residents' concerns, prioritized them, and created a plan that satisfied all interested parties. And now, thanks to the residents’ dedication to sustainable growth, the area is seen by residents of Indianapolis as a beacon of opportunity in the city and an example of how to do sustainable development the right way.
The Lower Frankford Creek Watershed Area-Wide Plan (AWP) is an endeavor first brainstormed in 2013 by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and a steering committee, which included city and state agencies, Drexel University, and property owners. It planned the cleaning and redevelopment of vacant catalyst sites that occupied 136.6 acres in the Northern Philadelphia neighborhoods of Bridesburg, Frankford, Port Richmond, and Juniata Park. The aforementioned communities are all located within the Frankford Creek Watershed, which is adjacent to the Delaware River.
The AWP also called for reusing 32 acres in the center of the site for industry, 27 acres for open space, and building a small amount of residential and commercial space on the western portion of the area. Due to centuries of industrial pollution and disinvestment, Frankford Creek’s ecological and economic health has been severely impaired. The project was undertaken with the goals of remediating hazardous sites and creating a greenway, commercial/retail areas, and added infrastructure to help with stormwater, flood, and air quality management in an environmental justice community.
Historically, the Lower Frankford Creek Watershed Area has been used for industrial purposes since the mid-19th-century. The area's juxtaposition to the Delaware River made it a convenient stfor rail, port, and manufacturing activities. Channeling of the waterway and industrial activity around it have had several negative consequences for Frankford Creek, including a decrease in biodiversity, erosion, flood risk, and higher pollution levels from industrial waste.
One estimate shows that over 150 textile mills existed in Frankford at one point in time; however, in recent times, companies have moved their industrial sites out of the area while leaving their footprint for the community to bear. Within that footprint is a creek polluted with sewage and lead paint that often floods the Frankford Creek area.
The demographics of the Frankford Creek area have changed significantly in the past few decades. After Philadelphia neighborhoods began to integrate, the 1980s saw the study area experience white flight and the retreat of capital, which increased the number of vacant lots and storefronts in the community.
Currently, this reality of scarcity is evidenced by the median household income for the study area ranging from $19,709 to $44,742, while the unemployment rate is 22.4%, which is 7.3 percentage points higher than the Philadelphia average. For this reason, the health disparities experienced by the residents of Frankford Creek are intensified by their lack of capital and health insurance.
Catalyst site 1 is a 68-acre factory located in the riverfront neighborhood of Bridesburg, which has been historically used for manufacturing and industrial purposes for over a century. The site, which is zoned for heavy industrial and commercial use, was formerly a chemical plant owned by manufacturers Rohm and Haas but was later purchased in 2009 by Dow Chemical Company before it ceased production in 2011.
Catalyst site 2 is the former Philadelphia Coke Co. facility, a 67-acre plant also located in the Bridesburg neighborhood, and now owned by National Grid. Moreover, the Philadelphia Coke Co. operated the facility from 1929 to 1982 and used it for a variety of purposes including coke storage, gas manufacturing, coal storage, a smokestack, machine shop, and fuel blending, among others. In the early 2000s, the site was rezoned from an industrial to a mixed residential/commercial district. Before the AWP was granted, the site was vacant and cloaked with vegetation even though it offered the opportunity to be redeveloped for residential, recreational, and neighborhood commercial use.
Catalyst site 3 is the former Edgewater Dyeing and Finishing Co. factory and encompasses about 1.6 acres in the “lower” Frankford Creek basin, which consists of a complex of brownfield sites along the Frankford Creek. The factory was one of many dyeing operations along the Frankford Creek that used the water source to power machinery and dispose of waste. As a result, the water quality has severely decreased, and the creek has often changed colors due to the waste it has been consuming for decades. The redevelopment of this property offers proximity to various modes of transit, access to schools, parks, community amenities, and retail space.
The Frankford Creek Area-Wide Plan was designed to mesh into the city’s long-term development plan “Philadelphia 2035” that features the revitalization of old industrial sites throughout the city and encourages economic development. When first initializing the AWP, city staff and private consultants met with key representatives of the community, public agencies, and institutional stakeholders but ultimately drafted a plan themselves.
The Philadelphia Planning Commission hired Stromberg/Garrigan & Associates, a consulting firm, to lead the planning process and hold four public meetings organized in various neighborhoods within the study area for a period of over 18 months. The Philadelphia Planning Commission and its partners also kept the public digitally aware through a website that included graphics, reports, drafts, and public feedback. The feedback from this engagement formed the basis of the recommendations of the AWP that was published.
The main concerns relayed by the public were a demand for increased access to the Frankford Creek and Delaware River, an improvement of human and environmental health in the area, and a call for reducing truck congestion in the area by improving transportation routes. The Planning Commission adopted these concerns into the AWP and released a finished product that reflected the interest of all stakeholders.
The Philadelphia Planning Commission received a $200,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency that was specifically designed to fund the planning of the redevelopment project but not the redevelopment of the catalyst sites. The city would have to apply for a new grant to execute the next phase of the AWP. Despite the lack of funding to remediate the site, there were numerous impacts to the study area included in the AWP, including the detailing of an estimated project cost and identifying the potential sources of project funding.
The greatest highlight of the study emerged in 2018 when the city completed construction of the Frankford Greenway, a 1.2-mile paved pathway that also brought about sewer overflow reduction, restoration of the natural habitat, and stormwater control. A major part of the greenway is a trail that created a safe and accessible connection between the Tacony Creek Park Trail and a nearby section of the East Coast Greenway, a massive walking and biking trail that runs from Maine to Florida.
Residents who hike and cycle will now be able to access their environment to a greater extent than they could before. As a result, part of the plan's goal of creating green infrastructure and reducing flood risk and sewage overflow was actualized.
A strong theme throughout this project was keeping stakeholders informed and involved in the initial planning process. This was especially important given the primary impact that the AWP had on an environmental justice community. The city created a steering committee of city agencies and property owners to review the plan's progress and direction and published the residents' comments in the final plan.
However, the environmental justice community and key stakeholder groups should have taken a bigger lead in creating and drafting the final plan and the process itself. For example, a bottom-up approach would empower the community to control the planning process in the manner they see fit and publish a final plan that they created. Nevertheless, implementing the greenway allowed the residents of the area to witness a material change they desired within their community that provides numerous public health benefits and an opportunity for change.
A big impediment to the noble goals of the project was the lack of funding and immediate remediation of environmental hazards in an environmental justice community; however, the AWP was successful in producing detailed goals and a clear framework for future developers to improve the environmental health and overall quality of life in the neighborhood.
The Menomonee Valley Revitalization Plan was designed to transform a polluted industrial area into an environmentally friendly community. The project began in 1998 as a city-wide redevelopment planning process in response to residents organizing to save the area and revitalize the once-booming industrial hub. It was completed by 2015 and featured the redevelopment of brownfields into commercial and industrial areas, in addition to modifications made to the environmental landscape including the creation of a trail to access the river valley and as an outdoor classroom. Though this revitalization plan was not an AWP, it still offers guidance on how small areas can plan and execute redevelopment as part of a wider city effort.
The Menomonee River Valley Area is a U-shaped area along the south Menomonee River. In the mid-19th century, the area became the “Milwaukee Road,” which featured railroad tracks connecting the city to the Great Plains, Mississippi River, and the Pacific Ocean. The area's proximity to railroads, the river, and Lake Michigan made it a local industrial and transportation hub. And when the city was considered the “machine shop of the world,” the valley was deemed its “engine.” However, the area began to decline after World War II, due to the nation transitioning from rail and ship transportation toward the Highway Interstate system.
By the 1980s, the River Valley Area was a prototypical Rust Belt community that suffered from blight and industrial pollutants. And “what remained were hundreds of acres of inaccessible brownfield, a trash-strewn river, sparsely used railroad tracks and empty shells of companies that once employed thousands.” Bridges into the Valley were eventually demolished as businesses fled, and the Valley, isolated from the surrounding city, was a place to pass over but not a place to go. The neighborhoods surrounding the Valley felt the impacts of the Valley’s decline: residents suffered from a limited job market, miniscule recreation opportunities, and high levels of asthma due to poor air quality. As a result, the residents searched for a solution to their decades-long dilemma through this redevelopment plan.
The plan for redevelopment was to reawaken the industrial potential of the area while also making it more environmentally healthy, friendly, and accessible to Milwaukee residents. The brownfield area covered over 1,200 acres of land formerly used for industrial purposes, including railyards, smokestacks, workshops, and coal factories, among other things. And the soil of the river valley where the Milwaukee Road had been built was filled with a wide range of materials making for unstable soil conditions as a wetland ecosystem.
The cleanup of the brownfield area required the removal of “six miles of underground clay-lined sewers, an on-site wastewater treatment plant and contaminants such as asbestos and lead throughout the site.” The contaminated soils were also removed and concrete material was repurposed from a nearby brownfield to create 900,000 cubic yards of fill material that was used to restore the floodplain by 2015.
The key stakeholders of the project were the Menomonee Valley Partners, Inc. (MVP), the Milwaukee Department of City Development (DCD), the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM), the Menomonee Valley Business Association, the Forest County Potawatomi Community, and the 16th Street Community Health Center. “In 1998, the City of Milwaukee, the Menomonee Valley Business Association and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District prepared a land use plan for the Menomonee River Valley”; this plan served as a road map for its redevelopment. In response to this development and overarching citywide planning efforts, the MVP was formed as a nonprofit organization, a public-private partnership to facilitate business, neighborhood, and public partners in efforts to revitalize the Valley.
MVP helped facilitate multi-million-dollar public-private partnerships that gave birth to the Menomonee Valley Branch of the Urban Ecology Center (UEC); the Valley Passage walkway, which reopened the valley and extended the Hank Aaron State Trail; the construction of three new pedestrian bridges; and the 24-acre Three Bridges Park, which opened in July 2013. The City of Milwaukee and its partners are now in the process of implementing a second land use plan, referred to as “Menomonee Valley 2.0.,” with the goals of creating a food and beverage cluster and a showroom district, creating more job opportunities for youth in surrounding areas, and continuing to improve access between the valley and adjacent communities.
The overall financial investment into this project totaled around $1 billion. The financing was provided through $162 million in city, federal, and state funds, $300 million in private sector funding, and over $500 million from the Forest County Potawatomi Community. The environmental benefits of redeveloping the area included: 1) managing flood volumes and the river's impact on the community while also improving the water quality, and 2) increasing the amount of usable land by 10%. The communal impacts of this project were: 1) created green space and allowed for residents to access the Menomonee River and surrounding open space that had been closed off for half a century, and 2) created infrastructure and programs to utilize the river as a laboratory for environmental analyses and an educational classroom.
The once polluted area now includes restaurants, hotels, shops, and green spaces, creating a welcoming place where people now want to work and take leisure. And the newfound vibrancy of the Valley now attracts over 50,000 visits to the park and environmental center annually as people wish to view the hundreds of native plant and animal species in the area. The Menomonee Valley Industrial Center has also been awarded for its stormwater treatment system that was implemented through the original plan, adding to the project's list of accomplishments.
The project was very successful in that it worked with residents to address the concerns for the area and established a healthier relationship between the community and the environment. The planners and stakeholders were wise in capitalizing on the area’s previous history as an industrial hub and creating a new one with a softer impact on the surrounding wetland. The public-private partnerships established by MVP were crucial in obtaining funding and creating programs and infrastructure that regenerated industry, rehabilitated the natural environment, and generated revenue and jobs for the city. This project is a testimony to the concept of "stacking functions," where solutions are combined on the same parcels to yield maximum benefits to the community and the environment.
The Cleveland Opportunity Corridor Area-Wide Plan (AWP) was a grant awarded to the City of Cleveland through the Brownfield Area Wide Planning Pilot Program in 2010. The AWP was designed to support the development of an overarching project that creates a three-mile highway boulevard between I-490 and University Circle, an area in Cleveland known as the “Forgotten Triangle”.
The aim of the plan was to collect environmental information and collaborate with stakeholders to identify priority projects and develop remediation strategies that would spur economic activity along the Cleveland Opportunity Corridor Roadway.
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) first envisioned the roadway after workers in University Circle, Ohio’s fourth-largest employment district, communicated to the ODOT that roads in the area were not efficient and traffic was unbearable. Consequently, ODOT decided to redevelop over 1,000 acres on the city’s southeast side, with hopes that it would alleviate traffic congestion, create job opportunities, and revitalize the area.
However, critics of the project believed the roadway was not designed in a manner beneficial to all stakeholders, particularly the environmental justice population. This is due to city and state planners prioritizing roadway construction over redevelopment projects beneficial to low-income residents and the necessary displacement of residents to construct the roadway.
Nevertheless, the AWP was successful in achieving its goals of identifying environmental harms, planning brownfield remediation, and increasing green infrastructure in the study area.
The Forgotten Triangle has been an industrial hub in the city since the late 19th century. However, decades of disinvestment, redlining, white flight, and illegal dumping have plagued the community. Given that the majority of the population is also considered low-income and minority, this a prime example of an environmental justice community.
The AWP indicates that residents in the area disproportionately suffer from poor air quality, poorly maintained homes, lack of healthy food options, and a lack of clean and safe green spaces. For example, in Kinsman, one of the five affected neighborhoods, asthma rates are at 15% (double the national average), unemployment around 50%, and the median household below $14,000.
Currently, the land uses within the Forgotten Triangle are primarily light industry and manufacturing, convenience retail establishments, churches, and residential homes for single and multi-family housing. A majority of the buildings within the area are vacant and in severe disrepair, resulting in a massive underutilization of the area.
The project planners divided the study area into four main districts: “District 2,” “District 3,” District 4,” and “District 5,” totaling approximately 225 acres, with 44 acres being designated as environmental health threats due to asbestos, lead-based paint, petroleum spills, illegal dumping, and asphalt manufacturing. Within these districts were smaller “superblocks,” redevelopment areas reduced in size so that investment and planning could be done in clustered phases. District 4 was the only district to not have superblocks and was instead labeled an “Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone.”
Within all of the districts, the AWP laid out a strategy of acquiring all property, with the exception of viable businesses, churches, and historical buildings, and converting the area through demolition, remediation, and construction into spaces for retail, light industry (manufacturing, warehousing, logistics), urban agriculture, tree farms, and stormwater management.
The key stakeholders involved in this project were the ODOT, the City of Cleveland, the Opportunity Corridor Partnership Office, and the Greater Cleveland Partnership, which represents various business and community development organizations. In 2005, these stakeholders formed a steering committee mainly appointed by the Greater Cleveland Partnership that would be responsible for planning the redevelopment.
However, local residents were not notified of the early planning stages, and in the first five meetings, there were no residents present at all. During the second series of meetings between 2009 and 2012, only one resident from each of the five affected neighborhoods was added to the steering committee, while business and political leaders comprised the majority of the committee.
The US EPA selected the City of Cleveland Planning Commission along with 22 other cities to participate in their Brownfield Area-Wide Plan Pilot Program in 2010. The program awarded the city a $175,000 grant for a period of 24 months to support development decisions adjacent to the ODOT roadway plan. The stated goals of the AWP were to educate residents and business owners on brownfields, prioritize sites and plan for their redevelopment, as well as incorporate neighborhood revitalization and job creation.
The city was successful in accomplishing its goals of identifying priority sites for remediation, detailing the cost of remediation, and creating an implementation process. The Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone is a notable highlight of the plan and proof of its partial success; this zone used 26 acres of large vacant parcels to create long-term jobs in water purification, vegetative waste recycling, composting, and the production of bio-fuels and fresh produce. The addition of green infrastructure to the study area was also successful, and the storm sewer and bio-retention facilities across the redevelopment districts are expected to reduce sewer overflow volumes by 2.2 million gallons.
The most controversial impact of the overarching roadway project however, was the relocation of 76 households, 16 businesses, and the turning of nine roads that connected with other streets into dead ends. The latter was deemed a problem due to many residents in the Forgotten Triangle relying on some of those roads to access public transportation. To many critics, a highway construction project makes little sense as a redevelopment tool, especially for a community like the study area where 40 percent of all residents do not drive at all, and where residents have repeatedly called for an increase in public transportation.
The Opportunity Corridor Area-Wide Plan offered residents of the Forgotten Triangle a chance to reshape their neighborhood and enhance their quality of living. However, this project was plagued by a lack of unison and vision among the stakeholders, specifically the state of Ohio and the city of Cleveland. Revitalization that truly benefited the residents of the area was a bigger priority for the city than the state, and this was seen in the state failing to meet benchmarks set by the city, which would have ensured the project benefited the environmental justice community.
The dispute over prioritizing the residents of the area posed an obstacle to the project’s completion and stalled planning efforts; however, the two parties settled their differences in 2017 and agreed that redevelopment beneficial to the residents would happen at the last stage of construction or after the highway is complete in 2021. As a result, residents are still waiting to see redevelopment that offers substantial material benefits to them, but for now, projects such as the Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone, stormwater management, and added green infrastructure offer a glimpse of what can be accomplished.
An Interactive Guide to Area-Wide Planning
A Project of the Environmental Law Institute
With Support from the Nelson S. Talbott Foundation