Citizens’ Perspectives of Access to the Decision Making Process and Community Improvement as Determinants of Brownfields Redevelopment Success
Brownfields redevelopment is acclaimed as a successful program that has revitalized struggling urban communities and returned unproductive, underutilized, and abandoned industrial and commercial properties to municipalities’ tax rolls. Despite a major brownfields' redevelopment goal being to improve the communities and their citizens' quality of life, to date, the program has not been evaluated from the mainstreams' perspective as to its impact on their neighborhoods and their quality of life. A survey of 129 citizens from urban, suburban and exsuburban municipalities in Passaic County New Jersey sought to evaluate the social outcomes of three redeveloped projects from the affected mainstreams' perspective. Additionally, the research sought citizens’ perspectives about access to the brownfields redevelopment decision-making processes for the purpose of participation. This access would be for them to express their concerns and values about these community projects in public decision making even to the extent of having these concerns reflected in the projects' outcomes. The research explored relationships between citizens' access to the decision making process and acceptance of the redeveloped projects. Also, it explored relationships between the impacts of neighborhood changes ascribed to the redevelopment and their acceptance. Results reveal that the municipalities differ in their response to the projects' outcome and towards the decision-making processes. Overall, there is a neutral to a fairly positive response toward the redevelopments. When citizens felt more empowered in the decision-making processes they are more likely to be accepting of the social outcomes of the redeveloped projects. Additionally, they are more favorable of these projects as the number of positive changes increase. Citizens’ values for redevelopment success such as public and environmental health, job creation, social cohesion, closely align with brownfields redevelopment goals for sustainable communities. This indicates that their values for improved quality of life and expectations for their communities are not discordant with those of local officials. However, emphasis is placed on different priorities. There is need for heightened awareness and sensitivity to each parties’ values, concerns, challenges and priorities and how to prioritize and streamline these issues for the communities overall well-being. Institutionalization of community participation programs within the municipalities is needed.