The Rebirth of Older Industrial Cities

By: David Soule, Joan Fitzgerald, and Barry Bluestone from the Center for Urban and Regional Policy, Northeastern University

Release Date: April 2004

The goal of this project was to identify the key “deal breakers” that act as barriers to urban development and to identify potential public and private sector strategies aimed specifically at overcoming these obstacles to inner city corporate investment. These barriers can be overcome if city leaders take a proactive, aggressive stance to meeting the complex needs of firms looking to start up operations, relocate, or add new facilities. Firms are willing to consider older industrial sites and abandoned “greyfield” commercial districts if municipal leaders and state agency personnel can work with them as a team to expeditiously solve problems related to zoning regulations, brownfield remediation, permitting, and an array of related factors. The research focused on sites identified by officials in Boston, Chelsea, Holyoke, Lawrence, and New Bedford, and on six key industrial sectors, all identified as strategic by the state government: health care/life sciences; biotechnology; information technology; financial services; traditional manufacturing, and travel and tourism.