Urban Redevelopment and Infill Development: Challenges and Opportunities
by Sharon Bradley, ASLA

Our firm has always dealt primarily with urban redevelopment and infill development, so the trend toward these improvements is actually good for us!  We also feel that this dovetails nicely with the advancement of SmartGrowth initiatives and helps provide the kind of conveniently located workforce housing that is lacking in so many urban centers.

The main challenge we see is in the area of inclusiveness. How do we ensure that the advantages of walkable communities reach the neediest inner city neighborhoods?  Basic necessities such as grocery stores are essential to these communities; reasonable access to nutritious food is crucial to the health of the members of these families, especially the very young and old. But a comprehensive redevelopment plan should not stop there. It should also include easy access to additional essential services. There are also other amenities that we try to carve out, even in high-density development. These include parks for both active and passive recreation, community gardens, dog parks, and other features that encourage interaction and stewardship.

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This pocket of land in a Pittsburgh Pennsylvania neighborhood was formerly a hang-out for drug dealers and the like, where other residents were afraid to go. Through careful preservation of existing natural assets, a reconfiguration of pedestrian pathways and building entrances, and the addition of site furnishings, the space has been reclaimed as a popular neighborhood park. Image courtesy of Bradley Site Design.

Including a broad spectrum of amenities involves careful planning and collaboration with the architects to produce creative unit combinations and arrangements to tease out parcels of green space without sacrificing density. We also look at the larger context to see what other facilities we can tap, such as city-wide bike paths and pedestrian systems.

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In the Barclay neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland, context was key as city blocks were redeveloped. A new, city-sponsored cycling path was accommodated through the site, and a pocket park system is emerging from an existing network of community gardens and other small parks. Following Green Alley precedents from Chicago and Los Angeles, the project is taking bold steps to make the alleys safe and attractive. Image courtesy of Bradley Site Design.

While the scarcity of space makes it more challenging to accommodate site amenities, the numerous programs and initiatives currently underway in many of our cities provide some exciting and accessible opportunities that may not be readily available in the suburbs. It is truly an exhilarating time to explore how urban centers can be renovated to provide the best resources for all residents.

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Peaceful, green oases can be created even in densely populated areas. Image courtesy of Bradley Site Design.

Sharon Bradley, ASLA, is the owner of Bradley Site Design, Inc. in Washington, DC and can be reached at: sbradley@bradleysitedesign.com.  

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