Overcoming Brownfield Barriers to Urban Manufacturing: Comparative Study of Policy Networks and Changing Local Economic Development Strategies in Four U.S. Cities

EPA Grant Number: FP917467
Title: Overcoming Brownfield Barriers to Urban Manufacturing: Comparative Study of Policy Networks and Changing Local Economic Development Strategies in Four U.S. Cities
Investigators: Hoelzel, Nathanael Z
Institution: Georgia Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: August 1, 2012 through July 31, 2015
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Urban Planning


The purpose is to explain why and how four U.S. cities and their planners are supporting certain types of urban manufacturing in inner-city neighborhoods impacted by brownfields. Specifically, the changing relationships will be examined between local planning stakeholders that result in alternative economic development strategies encouraging new industrial development in neighborhoods distressed by industrial decline.


This study will be a mixed-methods research project designed with a comparative case study approach. Specific objectives include: (1) providing a critical literature review to identify local economic development and brownfield redevelopment issues affecting urban manufacturing; (2) framing urban manufacturing issues in the national manufacturing policy debate; (3) creating a typology of sustainable manufacturing suitable for inner-city neighborhoods and identifying characteristics of productive industrial areas required to support desirable types of urban manufacturing; (4) completing a comparative study between neighborhood contexts, social (policy) networks, and economic development planning strategies emphasizing manufacturing in brownfields-impacted neighborhoods in Atlanta, GA; Milwaukee, WI; Philadelphia, PA; and San Francisco, CA; (5) synthesizing common themes and divergent issues from the case studies; and (6) recommending policy and research directions for advancing urban manufacturing in smart growth, brownfield redevelopment, environmental justice, sustainable local economic development and national manufacturing strategies.

Expected Results:

This study suggests that growing optimism in the U.S. manufacturing’s recovery, coupled with evolving structures and functions of social (policy) networks involving diverse groups of local stakeholders concerned with brownfields, economic development, smart growth, environmental justice and manufacturing are influencing inner-city neighborhood revitalization decisions.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

This project builds on prior research documenting that smart growth policies tend to overlook manufacturing’s contribution to sustainable local economic development, and reinforce non-industrial reuse of brownfields and converting remaining industrial areas to uses other than manufacturing. The presence of brownfields and their impacts in innercity neighborhoods remain a widespread phenomenon, and a number of cities are reconsidering their smart growth and brownfield redevelopment strategies. These cities are seeking to revitalize neighborhoods while simultaneously encouraging manufacturing and strengthening remaining productive industrial areas in these neighborhoods. This research will examine these issues and answer related policy questions: What is happening and why? Who is involved in changing brownfield redevelopment and neighborhood revitalization strategies? What is working, and what is not? Are there lessons and concepts for advancing sustainable local economic development planning? How can answers to these questions inform the national manufacturing policy debate?

Supplemental Keywords:

brownfields, urban manufacturing, sustainable development

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • 2014
  • Final