Former Industrial Sites

There are many benefits to redeveloping former industrial sites into useful, healthy spaces for the surrounding community—the resources on these pages will provide helpful background information and good resources for community planners and others who may be involved in the assessment, planning, and redevelopment processes.

[other featured resources here]

Former Industrial Site Redevelopment: The Basics

What is a former industrial site?

There are several different types of former industrial sites—but in general, these sites have either tested positive for contaminants in the soil, groundwater, or air above the site OR they may only be suspected of being contaminated because of the history of the site.

Brownfields are the most common type of former industrial site with nearly 800 documented brownfield sites in North Carolina. They are defined by the NC DEQ as a piece of land which is “abandoned, idled or underused where environmental contamination, or perceived environmental contamination, hinders redevelopment.” It is important to note that the term brownfield can include sites which are known to be contaminated or sites which are only perceived by the community to be contaminated but may have not been tested for contamination.

Inactive Hazardous Sites are sites where a hazardous substance was released in the past causing the site to become contaminated.

National Priority List sites or “Superfund Sites” are another type of contaminated site. These sites are part of a federal list of highly contaminated sites which are scheduled for mandatory clean up and remediation. There are 39 Superfund sites in North Carolina.

What are the benefits of redeveloping a former industrial site?

Redeveloping formerly contaminated sites can help stabilize property values, increase employment opportunities, and expand the tax base, all while creating safer and more sustainable places to live, work, and play.

Redevelopment can also help to:

  • Promote investment in unused or vacant properties in other parts of a community
  • Build a tax base, create jobs, provide housing options, and offer community gathering spots
  • Use existing infrastructure, which can reduce environmental impacts from new construction and help to minimize urban sprawl
  • Improve safety and quality of life by building neighborhood amenities in previously underused areas


There are hundreds of brownfield sites and other types of potentially polluted or underutilized land in North Carolina which are waiting to be reimagined into healthy, useful spaces that serve the needs of the community. However, the task of coordinating these efforts is often given to local planners who are frequently unfamiliar with the site assessment and redevelopment process and are concerned about the potential health or financial hazards that may be associated with this type of project. 

The resources on these pages were developed while working with two town planners in North Carolina communities who were interested in redeveloping former industrial sites in their communities. The DUSRC Community Engagement Core was able to assist in the translation of technical site report documents, communicating health risks to the community, connecting the planners to outside experts, and engaging community members in the redevelopment process.