Chapter 18 | Planning for Renewal and Revitalization


Renewing and revitalizing aging buildings and marginal areas of the community makes much more sense than abandoning them or tearing them down and replacing them. Today there is an increased emphasis in the United States on renewing and revitalizing neighborhoods, downtown areas and other parts of the community. This chapter also includes a discussion of the reuse of brownfields.  The chapter describes revitalization efforts ranging from large-scale urban renewal to site-specific public-private partnerships to support for revitalizing neighborhoods, one home at a time.

Weblinks from Chapter


  1. Pick an older area of your community. Working with a group, assess its strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Is it deteriorating? If so, can you tell why? What could local government do to make that area more attractive to private investors?
  2. Drive, bicycle, or walk around that same older area or another one and pick a site where you think a rational developer might want to build something—then decide generally what you would want to build if you were the developer. Now go to the local planning office and check on zoning and other development regulations. Will the regulations allow you to build what you would like to build there? Are all of the rules reasonable? Are they consistent with the existing pattern of development? Did you check the rules on off-street parking and loading?
  3. While driving around, pick out an older building that you think might be available cheap, as a “fixer-upper.” Go to the building office and find out what you would have to do to use the building, besides putting it back in good structural condition with safe plumbing and electrical systems. Would you have to add parking? An elevator? Other accessibility features? Would it still be feasible to undertake the project? (Note: If you are doing this exercise in a class, assign a couple of people to go to the building office, so that dozens of students do not descend on that office asking the same questions.).
  4. Is there an area in your community that is undergoing gentrification? If you are not sure, ask a local Realtor. What has made it attractive? Does the gentrification appear to be displacing other people? Where are they going?

Discussion Questions

  1. What can be done to revitalize your community’s downtown? How much of the effort would be public? How much would be private? Who owns most of the property? Are they the kinds of owners who seem likely to participate in a revitalization effort? Is there one owner with a lot of property that might be part of a large project, or are there many small owners? Even if your knowledge of ownership patterns is not complete, does it provide you with useful information regarding the probable success of a revitalization effort?


  • Several examples are listed under “Weblinks from Chapter” at the beginning of the material for this chapter.
  • For the Historic Arkansas River Project (HARP) in Pueblo, Colorado (pictured and discussed in text), see the HARP website.
  • Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (pictured in text) also has a website, describing its attractions.
  • Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has adopted a plan and extensive redevelopment project for its downtown area.
  • Clearwater, Florida, also has an ambitious plan for downtown redevelopment.
  • For an interesting plan for the revitalization of the heart of a small city, see the plan for Highland, Indiana.
  • A class of graduate students at Ball State University conducted a thorough study of abandoned buildings in the City of Muncie, Indiana, providing an assessment of the condition of buildings and their relative potential for rehabilitation.

Supplemental Resources

Common Search Terms

Use these terms in search engines to find additional examples and other resources:

redevelopment plan, revitalization plan, renewal plan, urban renewal, urban redevelopment, neighborhood plan, downtown plan, brownfield(s), brownfields plan, brownfields strategy, public-private partnerships