Maintaining urban industrial land use to accommodate new craft and light industrial economies
Fleischer, Rebecca Miriam
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This report will examine the issue of declining urban industrial land use and analyze how cities might benefit from maintaining industrial-zoned land or reconfigure the definition of industrial use in order to accommodate new craft and light industrial economic activities. In order to accommodate both population and economic growth, several U.S. cities are currently faced with the challenge of either changing or maintaining existing land uses so they can provide housing, as well as commercial space for businesses to grow. In many cases, the high demand for housing has overtaken other priorities, such as maintaining industrial pockets, which has led to rezoning for mixed-use commercial and residential development. While a change in land use is beneficial for expanding housing supply, it is disregarding a possible need for new urban economic activities such as small shop inventors, artisanal bakers, home brewers, craft manufacturers – sometimes labeled the maker movement. The initial section of the report illustrates historical and current trends in industrial land use and zoning. I will also define industrial zoning and establish whether or not its definition is possibly irrelevant given today’s uses of such spaces. The paper will then see if scant industrial space is, indeed, an issue amongst cities and if they are seeing a rise of interest for designated zones to create clusters of industrial activities that may benefit from co-location opportunities. I will then explore what types of businesses can best benefit from urban manufacturing space, but may find it a challenge to find adequate space in their city due to zoning changes. I will then use the experiences of three cities that have designated industrial zones for PDR, or Production, Distribution and Repair, use or for light industrial use in order to provide warehouse and activity spaces for burgeoning businesses. Finally, the paper will discuss the importance of industrial spaces to the diversity and economic growth of US cities.