This month the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the latest grant recipients in an economic development initiative designed to help cities convert formerly industrial (and potentially contaminated) eyesores into community assets. The $13.3 million pot, coupled with another $35 million in federal loan guarantees, will help build a Marriott in Toledo, a light manufacturing site in Cleveland and, in Philadelphia, a supermarket within a food desert and an affordable housing project in a neighborhood where unemployment is twice the national rate. In all, HUD boasts that nearly 2,000 permanent jobs will be created.
The announcement – albeit for not a whole lot of money – hints at many problems solved on a single, equally problematic canvas: the brownfield. The potential is intriguing. Can cities revitalize such places and create jobs by hiring people to clean them up – and then live, work, and shop there? As Kaid Benfield points out, the benefits to such an arrangement can be big.