ELI Launches New Tool for Blighted Communities

January 2022

(Washington, D.C.)—Many U.S. communities suffering from blight, divestment, brownfields, and extreme weather are developing “area-wide corridor projects” as a means to transform their neighborhoods, and the quality of their lives. But where should communities dealing with legacy pollution and other environmental justice issues begin? The Environmental Law Institute’s Blight Revitalization Initiative for Green, Healthy Towns (BRIGHT) program just released The BRIGHT Guide to help communities develop and execute corridor projects in their own neighborhoods to produce positive health, ecological, and economic outcomes.

“Area-wide planning works to solve or ameliorate the environmental risks that too many U.S. communities face,” explained Scott Badenoch Jr., a Visiting Attorney at ELI and Founder of the BRIGHT program. “By emphasizing race-conscious, anti-gentrification practices, The BRIGHT Guide reframes brownfield revitalization as a source of equitable and sustainable development.”

Founded in 2016, BRIGHT seeks to empower just, equitable, and community-driven sustainable development by providing tools and resources to support the community in accomplishing its goals. ELI’s BRIGHT team published The BRIGHT Guide, a free, online document, to help communities create and execute corridor projects in their own neighborhoods. As a continually updated, live document, The BRIGHT Guide actively pursues best practices in area-wide planning and encourages the broader community of lawyers, practitioners, academics, and concerned citizens to share new information and resources as they become available.

The BRIGHT Guide is composed of eight chapters. The first chapter introduces BRIGHT and outlines the purpose of the Guide. Chapters 2-6 walk readers through the major steps of area-wide planning. These include:

  • Stakeholder Management—the process of stakeholder identification, engagement, and conflict management.
  • Mapping the Project—a step-by-step method for identifying the project area, sites of interest, and tools to help visualize how these relate to one another.
  • End-Uses—examples of sustainable end-uses and how they can be incorporated into a community’s Area-Wide Plan.
  • Brownfields—understanding the brownfield identification and remediation process.
  • Funding Sources—detailing the various funding opportunities that communities can pursue for their Area-Wide Plans.

Chapter 7 offers case studies for communities to learn from, and Chapter 8 will provide a number of resources, references, and tools to support communities in the development of their own corridor projects.

ELI’s BRIGHT Program works to identify corridors of blighted, vacant, and environmentally impaired properties in overburdened communities and support the community and municipality in developing a revitalization plan. Combining community-level engagement with organizational and financial support from the private sector, government, and NGOs, BRIGHT catalyzes environmental justice, neighborhood revitalization, economic opportunity, green infrastructure, ecosystem restoration, and climate resilience.

This past summer, the BRIGHT team hosted its first event highlighting a successful corridor project in Whitesburg, Kentucky, developed using the BRIGHT model. The program plans to host similar events in the future.

The BRIGHT team wants to hear from you. If you are a community group or municipality interested in area-wide plans and resilient corridors, or have experience with organizing or executing area-wide plans, please contact us at bright@eli.org.