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Thread: Graduate program in brownfields?

  1. #1

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    Graduate program in brownfields?

    Hi All,

    I'm back to the boards from a year-long hiatus with a pretty specific question:

    I'm thinking about Grad school sometime in the near future, and am thinking that I'd like to come out of it heading toward a job in infill / brownfield redevelopment (ideally perhaps starting off on my own with small projects). I know its dreaming, but you've got to start somewhere! A degree specifically in brownfields would be best, but perhaps there is a similar degree somewhere that would do me right?

    I have an undergrad degree in Planning from a fine American university, so I should be all set with the basic concepts, but the skills I do need would be related to finance, real estate, market studies, construction process, perhaps a little more design, and maybe some environmental science.

    Anybody know of a university with any such program, or even a reasonable facsimile? Location is not a limiting factor...

    Many Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian time+space's avatar
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    Check out Harvard's Design School, specifically, the Landscape Architecture department. The chair is Niall Kirkwood, who has done significant work in brownfields and landfill redevelopment. He edited the book, Manufactured Sites, about reusing industrial landscapes, which I used for one of my historic landscape projects.

    Good Luck!

  3. #3
         
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    Hi,

    Clark in Worcester- the CDP planning program in the IDCE department. If you want brownfields, worcester has nearly 400 ripe and ready for you to study.

    best,

    stephen

  4. #4
         
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    Location is key

    Location is key. Go to a school that was/is in a major manufacturing area. Massachusetts is full of them, but anywhere in the Rust Belt is going to give you what you want: Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, some parts of Ohio, etc.

  5. #5
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    UW-Milwaukee

    You may want to consider investigating the MUP program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Among the many emphases offered is Environmental Resources Planning (I can't post URLs yet because I'm new to the forum...). The school has also partnered with several outside groups to create the UWM Brownfields Consortium (Google Milwaukee + Brownfields...). Milwaukee is an EPA Brownfields Showcase Community, and successfully secures federal and state grants on an annual basis to remediate brownfield sites. I am certain you would find unique opportunities to pursue your studies (and create your own curriculum) within the UWM community. Best of luck in your endeavors!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    Have you looked at Georgia Tech? I know Atlanta has been doing some work on its brownfields. And a former professor of mine is now there and he's got the environmental side and design stuff you mentioned.

  7. #7

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    Thanks,

    I hadn't really considered that being in an area with significant brownfields would be a consideration, but now that you mention it, it makes sense. Perhaps I'm taking for granted that ther are brownfield opportunities in most areas, being that I grew up in rust-belt Michigan and now live amidst NE mill towns. Regardless, having a chance to work closely on a real-woprld project will undoubtedly be an invaluable experience.

    But I'm also looking for a little more than a good planning department with a chance to work on a brownfield project - back at Michigan State (where I studied for undergrad), we had courses in Real Estate Development which focussed a lot on finance and real estate processes. We also had a degree program in Building Construction Management, which had courses along the lines of project management, process, etc. (Of course, I didn't go near any of those courses because to me they looked like classes that were somewhat adversarial to my views on planning at the time). I'm now wishing I had some background in those areas. I feel as though I am relatively sound in general planning/design, but where I really need work are areas like finance, real estate, and construction where I have no experience, and which are the areas where the 'rubber really meets the road' so to speak. My sense is that many planning departments don't include these kinds of courses. Maybe thats incorrect?

    Maybe I'm a little naive on what a developer actually does vs. what is subcontracted, but these practical skills are the area where I feel like I need the most education. I look around at the 'greenfield' developers around here and am mortified at their lack of vision and formal education - in many cases they inherited a business from their fathers and started working right after high school and can't see any further than their own bottom-line. Basically, I think its important to be at the same level as these guys in terms of construction knowledge, etc. and that's what I would try to get from two years in school rather than ten years driving a backhoe.

    So, looking back at the suggestions posted here, could I get this kind of focus at any of those schools? Is it advisable to try to get these skills in school, or should I just pick them up as I go along in the real world?

    Many thanks!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally posted by metts
    Hi,

    Clark in Worcester- the CDP planning program in the IDCE department. If you want brownfields, worcester has nearly 400 ripe and ready for you to study.

    best,

    stephen
    Hey Worcester buddy! Holy Cross alum (just graduated in May) checking in. And yeah, there's plenty of brownfields in Worcester, but we didn't really seem them up on our hill...

  9. #9
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    There neeeds to be more government money allocated to the funding of Brownfield sites.

  10. #10
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    Brownfields @MIT

    Quote Originally posted by MaineMan
    I feel as though I am relatively sound in general planning/design, but where I really need work are areas like finance, real estate, and construction where I have no experience, and which are the areas where the 'rubber really meets the road' so to speak. My sense is that many planning departments don't include these kinds of courses. Maybe thats incorrect?
    The planning department at MIT has a two-course series on brownfields taught by Jim Hamilton, who is an active practioner. The first class designed to give you the background to do a project/practicum in the second class. There is also rumblings of a course at the Center for Real Estate (CRE) that would be brownfield-specific. Students in DUSP can enroll in CRE classes as well as Harvard classes, tho the Harvard studios have a reputation of not taking MIT students (Harvard students can also take DUSP/CRE classes). The CRE program is very well-regarded in real estate, especially the finance class.

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