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Unmitigated effects of sprawl in many small rural towns have been documented. The common thread in the literature identifies the negative externalities of sprawl, especially the consumptive and inefficient nature of land use. Some of the most commonly cited sprawl mitigation strategies include revitalization of downtowns, investing in public transportation, and infill development among others. However, little attention has been given to repurposing of brownfields into usable space as a sprawl mitigation strategy. This study examines, first, how analytical GIS tools can help in the assessment of small town sprawl; and second, to identify city space designated as brownfields for repurposing into developable land. The city of Florence, Alabama is used as a case study and the following questions are addressed: What is the total land area of repurposable brownfield space relative to the amount of land annexed into the city through sprawl over a given period of time? How might GIS help to identify brownfields as a sprawl mitigation strategy? Is repurposing of brownfields an effective sprawl mitigation strategy for small towns such as Florence, Alabama? To address these questions, a GIS conceptual framework is employed. After establishing the theoretical context through literature review, geospatial data is assembled and analyzed in an ArcGIS environment. Preliminary analysis supports the strategy of brownfield repurposing as an effective sprawl mitigation strategy for small rural towns.

Presentation Date



Washington DC


brownfields, sprawl, small towns, redevelopment


Geography | Physical and Environmental Geography


Poster originally presented at the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting.

Understanding Small Town Sprawl Using GIS