Wastelands, greenways and gentrification: Introducing a comparative framework with a focus on Detroit, USA

Paul Draus, Dagmar Haase, Jacob Napieralski, Alec Sparks, Salman Qureshi, Juliette Roddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6189
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Cultural landscapes
  • Urban ecology
  • Urban greenspaces
  • Urban regeneration
  • Urban sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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