Brownfields Practicum – Sustainable Redevelopment of Brownfield Sites in Somerville, Massachusetts

Brownfields remain of the highest priority in the regeneration of the inner city. Defined by the US. Environmental Protection Agency as an \”abandoned, idled or underused industrial or commercial facility where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination\” these derelict sites can at once ease urban land shortages as well as release pressure on rural greenfield sites. In addition they can redirect growth to areas and sites passed by due to liability concerns and clean up costs, and create more balanced regional and local growth patterns. In 1996, the U.S. General Accounting office estimated 450,000 brownfields to be found in the nation, listing 7,733 in the State of Massachusetts and 395 within the City of Boston. Brownfields redevelopment presents a unique opportunity to unite environmental, economic and social goals within a single problem-solving strategy or set of design and planning strategies, and to join diverse constituencies such as environmentalists, planners, designers and community developers in the process. The class will first examine the economic, environmental, community, regulatory, engineering and development conditions surrounding brownfields. This will include lectures and discussions with stakeholders from federal, city and community agencies, as well as other professionals from the legal, financial, planning, engineering, and environmental risk assessment professions. Through a rigorous practice component, student teams apply their general brownfield knowledge to particular challenges in the field on behalf of a local-based city authority and gain hands-on experience in applied environmental and economic development research and analysis, community practice, and sustainability planning and design. In this way class members will be exposed to brownfield challenges and constraints alongside creative inquiry and innovative design opportunities. Our client in the spring 2005 semester will be the City of Somerville through the Office of Housing and Community Development.Professional visitors to the class will include Carol Tucker, brownfields coordinator, US.EPA Region 1, Catherine Finneran, brownfields coordinator, Massachusetts DEP, Rosanna Sattler and David Li, Environmental Lawyers, Boston, Dr Kurt Franzen, Environmental Engineer, CT, William Penn, brownfields finance consultant, RI, John DeVillars, Managing Partner, BlueWave Strategies, Boston and William Shutkin, environmental author and lawyer. Enrollment is open to all students in graduate standing as well as undergraduates from Harvard College. In the last three years the class has included designers, planners, environmental scientists and policy students from the Harvard Design School, MIT and Harvard College.