Chicago’s Brownfield Initiative to Reclaim Urban Sprawl and Economic Resources

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Chicago’s Brownfield Initiative to Reclaim Urban Sprawl and Economic Resources


Brownfields are abandoned, idled or underused industrial and commercial properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived contamination. In 1993, representatives from the Chicago Departments of Environment, Planning and Development, Buildings, Law, and the Mayor Office came together to develop a strategy for promoting cleanup and redevelopment of the City’s brownfields. The city developed a three- pronged initiative based on this strategy. This paper will focus on Chicago’s efforts to reclaim urban sprawl and return the city’s abandoned or underused properties to productive use. Background information will be
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The pilot program would clean up and prepare five sites for private redevelopment.

Since this was involving a new approach to solving redevelopment and economics issues, there was a lot of uncertainty involved in the process. Chicago was a pilot program and a lot of city resources needed to be utilized and developed to ensure success. Which in the past little financial support was given to brownfield development projects from the public sector. Also, complex spheres of regulatory jurisdiction needed special attention so many outside sources were pulled together to help achieve significant economic, social and aesthetic benefits. However, it is important to understand that this project was by no means a "giveaway", but the notion of the brownfield initiatives was to benefit and recover investments during subsequent sale or development. This was the way to return jobs back to the city and target the urban sprawl that was rampantly increasing.


The main issue involved economic development surrounding the creation of new jobs for the city of Chicago. In 1970, the City of Chicago could claim 60 percent of all jobs in the metro region, and 48 percent of all industrial employment. However, the city was hit the hardest between 1970 and 1996 when the city lost more than 300,000

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