Brownfields and Blight

Many of the Northeast-Midwest (NEMW) region’s cities—historic and current centers of industry, transportation, and American ingenuity—suffer from dramatic reductions in population, employment opportunities, and economic investment. The majority of our nation’s most economically challenged older industrial cities are concentrated in the NEMW region. Nevertheless, these places have great potential, and through creativity and collaboration, some residents and city leaders are beginning to capitalize on their many assets.

The Institute works to identify critical policy needs and support solutions to shared problems in the region’s cities. Its work in the areas of brownfields and blight is a nexus of research on: the state of older cities and their neighborhoods; successful initiatives taking place in NEMW older cities to tackle persistent problems; and relevant upcoming legislation.

Current Activities:

Recent Activities

  • Released “Fighting Blight in the Northeast-Midwest Region,” a report that assesses the federal response to vacant and abandoned properties in our region’s cities.
  • Hosted a briefing on blight, featuring NEMWI research and speakers from Cleveland and Baltimore.
  • Composed book chapter about green energy on brownfields with members of the Brownfields & Reuse Opportunity Working Network, led by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
  • Tracked federal funding and legislation of importance to the region’s older cities, including community development and brownfields programs, workforce legislation, and manufacturing initiatives.

Upcoming Activities

  • Continued policy research on vacant property and blight.
  • Continued tracking of federal funding and legislation of importance to the region’s older cities, including annual analysis of the President’s Budget in early 2017.

Future Activities under Exploration

  • Increased engagement with the Congressional Revitalizing Older Cities Task Force.
  • Policy education on federal support for brownfields cleanup and reuse.
  • Case studies of brownfield clean-up and reuse over time and in different contexts.

Accomplishments and Impacts:

The Institute counts among its city-related successes the following accomplishments, which are representative of its work to identify critical policy needs and support solutions to shared problems:

  • The development of brownfield studies as an area of research and policy analysis;
  • The establishment of the Congressional Revitalizing Older Cities Task Force (a subset of the NEMW Congressional Coalition) and increased federal attention to the priorities of older cities;
  • The development and introduction of legislation benefiting older cities in the areas of historic rehabilitation, abandoned property, public housing, and brownfields sites.


NEMWI Reports

  • Fighting Blight in the Northeast-Midwest Region: Assessing the Federal Response to Vacant and Abandoned Properties (2016).
  • Update on the Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities: Programs, Funding, and NEMW Grantees (2012).
  • Children’s Environmental Health: Asthma and Lead Poisoning in NEMW States and Cities (2012).
  • New Energy for Older Cities: District Energy and Combined Heat and Power (2012).
  • Inside the Northeast-Midwest: Population Change in the Region’s Largest Cities (2011).
  • Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities: Background, Funding History, and NEMW Grantees (2011).
  • Promoting Economic Vitality, Environmental Sustainability, & Regional Equity in the Northeast and Midwest (2011, webinar slides).
  • New Demographic Realities: The Northeast-Midwest Region (2010).
  • Environmental and Energy Conservation Benefits of the Maryland Historic Tax Credit Program (2009).
  • Heritage Tax Credits: Maryland’s Stimulus to Renovate Buildings and Create Jobs (2009).
  • Exploring Green Infrastructure and the Role of Federal Policy (2009).
  • Revitalizing Older Cities Summit Report (2009).
  • Downtown Revitalization in Urban Neighborhoods and Small Cities (2000 to 2006)
  • Coming Clean for Economic Development (1996).

Partners in Our Work:

Brookings Institution
Center for Community Progress
Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities
Manufacturing Alliance of Communities
National Call to Action
Redevelopment Economics
Smart Growth Network

Funders of Our Work:

The Joyce Foundation
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation