Written by Sarah Walwema, who works in BBJ Group's Chicago office
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is the comprehensive regional planning authority for northeastern Illinois, the third-largest metropolitan area in the United States. As the federally mandated planning authority, CMAP uses data analysis, public engagement and local government entities to make planning recommendations and allocate federal transportation dollars. CMAP’s mission is to help communities prosper by targeting a range of issues that affect quality of life. This includes such topics as transportation, housing, economic development and land use. CMAP is also obligated to intermittently release a long-range, comprehensive plan to ensure smart growth.
CMAP’s most recent plan, On to 2050, forecasts growth for the region up to the year 2050 and was published on October 10, 2018.
On to 2050 was developed over a 3-year timespan and built on the previous plan, Go to 2040. The plan’s guiding principles are inclusive growth, prioritized investment and resilience. Inclusive growth is based on research showing that social and economic inequity slows growth. Prioritized investment recognizes that as federal and local funding dwindles, resources must be thoughtfully allocated. Lastly, resilience refers to both economic as well as climatic and environmental resilience.
On to 2050—and its predecessor Go to 2040—cite brownfield redevelopment as a strategy to promote economic development at the local, regional and national levels. Go to 2050 explains how brownfield redevelopment promotes infill development, a form of “land-recycling” where redevelop- ment is used in place of developing open land.
Brownfield redevelopment can strengthen a community by promoting infill development, adding jobs and protecting the environment. In terms of the private sector, brownfield properties can offer an increased return on investment when compared to new, open-land properties. They are often located where transportation and utility infrastructure are already available, and national and local governments are enacting policy to make these infill sites more attractive to private investors. For both private and public entities, brownfield redevelopment offers additional opportunities for public-private partnerships (PPPs). CMAP recognizes the strategic and innovative financing mechanism that PPPs represent when they are used appropriately. According to a case study written in Procedia Engineering from China University of Mining and Technology, PPPs in residential brownfield projects can mean that “public sectors provide strategic profits to the private sectors, while the private entities implement and develop the public sector’s plan”.
In addition to its economic benefits, CMAP’s long-term, regional plans also examined the social impact of brownfield redevelopment as it relates to environmental justice, the idea that everyone has the right to live in area that is safe and beautiful. CMAP uses environmental justice to encompass issues like public health and safety and crime. Brownfields can potentially pose major health threats in the form of fluids that become either air or water borne. According to CMAP, these hazards are often located in communities that are facing disinvestment and isolation in addition to being in blighted areas.