Feb 06, 2014
The overarching challenge presented by Brownfield Redevelopment in the Mon Valley, a system project sponsored by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania (RIDC)was a tough one. How do you sell an obsolete industrial site in a difficult location in a way could materially benefit low income residents still living in the neighborhood years after Steel’s collapse -- during the tail end of a nationwide economic recession?
For one semester RIDC turned the question over to our students. Advised by Jerry Paytas of Fourth Economy Consulting, the team was asked to provide a market-driven analysis for what types of uses could be located on the site that would increase RIDC's revenue, expand the municipal tax base, and employ the most local labor. Their analysis examined a broad array of possible industrial targets and a few specific non-industrial sectors: hotel, restaurant and retail. The team started by taking a hard look at neighborhood demographics, local transportation networks, and trends in real estate trend, labor markets and comparison of industrial growth and competitiveness in the Commonwealth.
This research allowed them to narrow the possibilities to a manageable set in the next phase. A SWOT style analysis of the site followed informed by personal interviews with local employers, RIDC tenants, community leaders, and industry experts. Based on the interviews and a survey, the team created and applied a list of site-specific criteria to each use, allowing them to be scored against the remaining field of viable uses. This scoring matrix informed the ranking of 20 different uses across key development factors of interest to both RIDC and corporate site selectors. In the end, the team’s conclusions acknowledged the continuing challenges developing the sites will face, but also pointed to rays of hope and opportunities for both the site and the community.
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