Researching Social Impacts of Brownfield Redevelopment on Communities with Environmental Justice Concerns

Image of bulldozer and excavating equipment near a neighborhood

Project Brief

The Challenge

While cleaning up and redeveloping brownfields has the potential to bring positive changes to local communities, the extent of these benefits—especially their longer-term social impacts—is unknown. In addition, there is concern that brownfield redevelopment may ultimately lead to gentrification-driven displacement of residents. To better understand the benefits and gentrification risk that may result from brownfield redevelopment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development asked ERG to research and document the social and economic impacts of brownfield redevelopment on local communities with environment justice concerns.

ERG's Solution

ERG has been conducting case studies of the impacts of brownfield redevelopment on four communities with environmental justice concerns: Martindale-Brightwood, Indianapolis; Menomonee Valley, Milwaukee; Bartram’s Garden, Philadelphia; and Nicetown-Tioga, Philadelphia. We began by analyzing the literature on brownfield redevelopment, urban health and design, and gentrification and displacement. Based on this analysis, we then developed a set of indicators to assess social outcomes of brownfield redevelopment. For each case study, we used a mixed methods approach to collect data for these indicators. Based on these data, we developed conclusions about the social outcomes of redevelopment in each of the four communities. Our project team also considered the background context in which redevelopment was taking place and how these contextual factors may play a role in the social outcomes that result from redevelopment. To learn from local community members, we also supported EPA in designing and facilitating participatory mapping events in the four case study communities. The final brownfield redevelopment case studies will provide insights EPA can use to direct future research and contribute to best practices in brownfield programming.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency