Monday, September 20, 2010

The New Urban Neighborhood: Brownfield?

Sept. 16, 2010
By Nancy Warren

A house in the country will always have its appeal.

But lately more homebuyers are preferring the city - for reasons ranging from the sheer excitement of the surroundings, to the rescue of impoverished areas and the preservation of shrinking green space.

One prime area of urban housing growth is the type of site known as "brownfields." These are often-abandoned commercial and industrial spaces that have outlived their original uses.

With the right environmental cleanup, though, they can be converted to housing - even entire neighborhoods.

Older suburban homes and large new developments have lost none of their popularity, but for the right buyer the urban option is one worth exploring.

Clearly, urban living is not for everyone - it usually attracts single professionals and couples without children. But the lifestyle has aspects that would appeal to anyone.

Two major attractions are cutting down on a long daily commute to city employment and taking advantage of the area's cultural scene.

Convenience like this coincides with the environmental interests of both city and suburban officials - having a population within a few public transit stops or even in walking distance of work and recreation reduces automotive pollution and traffic hazards.

And placing new housing in established urban buildings can slow suburban sprawl, with one study showing that, given factors such as pre-existing architecture and infrastructure, every hectare (about 2.5 acres) of brownfields that is redeveloped spares 4.5 hectares of green space.

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