Brownfield, Greyfield, & Infill Development

Have you ever driven past an abandoned industrial site or vacant shopping center and wondered what went wrong? In the planning world, these spaces are referred to as Brownfields and Greyfields – and they can be caused by a variety of factors such as irregular lot shape, difficult access, inadequate infrastructure, environmental contamination, outdated or obsolete design, and economic issues.

Although the two are similar, Brownfields result from the contamination of sites due to multiple prior uses (old steel mills, chemical or manufacturing facilities, abandoned buildings, former dumps, lumber yards, dry cleaners, gas stations and auto body shops), while Greyfields are usually not hazardous, but rather obsolete, outdated, or underutilized due to changing market demand, decreased buying power in nearby areas, changes in consumer buying habits, lack of investment, or architecture that no longer meets market demand.

While Brownfields and Greyfields both present potentially negative impacts to their local communities, they can also provide opportunities for redevelopment resulting in community revitalization, open space preservation, public safety, increased service demand, and more.

Examples of Brownfield Redevelopment in Chester County include Phoenixville Borough’s Riverworks Apartment Complex (a former historic steel mill site) and West Chester Borough’s Wyeth Site (a former pharmaceutical plant). Greyfield Redevelopment sites include Kennett Square’s Market at Liberty Place, and Tredyffrin’s Parkview at Chesterbrook Shopping Center (a former vacant office building and a redevelopment of a shopping center), among others.

Additionally, smaller scattered parcels of land that were bypassed by earlier development, previously occupied by buildings, or contain underutilized structures can serve as infill development sites. This can be seen in West Chester Borough’s new 44 West Plaza (formerly the Mostellar Building) which consists of offices and retail/restaurant space.

As part of the Chester County Planning Commission’s Commercial Landscapes3 Planning Series and Vision, the importance of repurposing significant commercial areas in Chester County includes realistic strategies, recommendations, and best practices for Brownfields, Greyfields, Transit-oriented development, and the reinvention of Office Parks for the 21st century. However, changes from the COVID-19 pandemic may accelerate some of these redevelopment trends.

The Planning Commission’s eTools cover a wide array of planning topics, from natural resources to economic development. The tools are easy to read, providing a quick overview of each topic, a brief explanation of how it works, and considerations for addressing the topic or regulating use. An alphabetical listing of eTools is available in our Municipal Corner.