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Wastelands, Greenways and Gentrification: Introducing a Comparative Framework with a Focus on Detroit, USA


  • Paul Draus

    (Department of Behavioral Sciences, The University of Michigan-Dearborn, 4901 Evergreen Rd., Dearborn, MI 48128, USA)

  • Dagmar Haase

    (Institute of Geography, Humboldt University Berlin, Rudower Chaussee 16, 12489 Berlin, Germany)

  • Jacob Napieralski

    (Department of Natural Sciences, The University of Michigan-Dearborn, 4901 Evergreen Rd., Dearborn, MI 48128, USA)

  • Alec Sparks

    (Department of Social Sciences, The University of Michigan-Dearborn, 4901 Evergreen Rd., Dearborn, MI 48128, USA)

  • Salman Qureshi

    (Institute of Geography, Humboldt University Berlin, Rudower Chaussee 16, 12489 Berlin, Germany)

  • Juliette Roddy

    (Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86005, USA)


Vacant, abandoned or unproductive land parcels, sometimes called “wastelands”, offer opportunities to create new green spaces in cities. Such spaces may be utilized to add to the stock of urban nature, expand recreational green space, promote real estate or commercial development, or simply remain undefined. These various trajectories have significant implications for population health, ecosystem services and real estate values. However, they may also contribute to inequitable outcomes. Are disadvantaged communities, which may be paradoxically rich in wastelands, more advantaged when green space redevelopment occurs, or are they more at risk of green gentrification and associated displacement? To address this question, we first review some of the literature relative to wastelands, especially as they relate to processes of urban change such as depopulation, land use planning, regrowth and gentrification. We utilize historical redlining maps, the Detroit Master Plan and projected land use scenarios from the Detroit Future City (DFC) Strategic Framework Plan to identify areas of vulnerability or possibility within walking distance of the proposed Joe Louis Greenway (JLG). Finally, we consider how wastelands situated along the JLG may be reframed as flexible opportunity spaces, their potential leveraged to advance environmental justice, economic opportunity, and social equity, especially as the City of Detroit takes socioeconomic and racial equity as a key orienting principle—an alternative to green gentrification that we call green reparations.

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  • Paul Draus & Dagmar Haase & Jacob Napieralski & Alec Sparks & Salman Qureshi & Juliette Roddy, 2020. "Wastelands, Greenways and Gentrification: Introducing a Comparative Framework with a Focus on Detroit, USA," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(15), pages 1-17, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:12:y:2020:i:15:p:6189-:d:392832

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lena Ali & Annegret Haase & Stefan Heiland, 2020. "Gentrification through Green Regeneration? Analyzing the Interaction between Inner-City Green Space Development and Neighborhood Change in the Context of Regrowth: The Case of Lene-Voigt-Park in Leipz," Land, MDPI, vol. 9(1), pages 1-24, January.
    2. Sarah Dooling, 2009. "Ecological Gentrification: A Research Agenda Exploring Justice in the City," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(3), pages 621-639, September.
    3. Christopher B. Riley & Kayla I. Perry & Kerry Ard & Mary M. Gardiner, 2018. "Asset or Liability? Ecological and Sociological Tradeoffs of Urban Spontaneous Vegetation on Vacant Land in Shrinking Cities," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 10(7), pages 1-19, June.
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