Area-wide planning is strategy for revitalizing entire neighborhoods which addresses multiple challenges – including brownfields and vacant or abandoned properties – at the same time. Area-wide planning takes into account a region’s housing options, business districts, transportation needs and challenges simultaneously, making planning efforts more efficient and more effective. Area-wide planning:
- Builds synergies between properties, allowing for shared infrastructure, complementary siting, and greater connectivity;
- Increases efficiency by cutting down on red tape while streamlining remediation and site cleanup;
- Fosters broad support of projects through community engagement; and
- Helps raise the value of all the land in the planning area, including those plagued by poor market conditions and serious challenges.
Area-wide planning helps raise the value of all of the land in a planning area, including sites with challenges like petroleum contamination, and helps overcome the economic barriers to redevelopment these sites often face. Area-wide planning makes otherwise undesirable sites viable for private sector cleanup or redevelopment, and saves money for municipalities in the process. If it is done right and driven by community engagement, area-wide planning also results in wide support for the specific projects that comprise the area-wide plan, helping to reduce delays, prevent lawsuits, and leverage a variety of resources.
While there is no single approach for creating an area-wide plan, it often takes the form of a written work plan that signals a public sector commitment to target resources to an area over time, and encompasses major activities, goals, partners, deliverables, and measures of success aimed at revitalizing a designated contiguous area (or non-contiguous group of sites with critical commonalities) in accordance with a community’s vision. Ideally, an area-wide plan should be based on an inventory of sites in the area, a preliminary market study, a feasibility analysis, and other key baseline data; and contain specific reuse plans for at least a subset of the sites, as well as related infrastructure and amenities needed to implement the community’s vision. It should also be accompanied by a strategic plan that outlines and/or identifies next steps for securing funding resources available from the private sector, county, state, and federal levels for implementation.