What is Greyfield Land?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Greyfield land is real estate or land which is underutilized, typically producing far less revenue than it would if properly managed. In contrast with brownfield, land which may be partially contaminated, greyfield usually does not require environmental remediation before it can be redeveloped. Some urban areas actively promote improvement of greyfield land, for a variety of reasons ranging from a desire to up the density level to improving communities.

Greyfield land typically does not require environmental remediation before it can be redeveloped.
Greyfield land typically does not require environmental remediation before it can be redeveloped.

Greyfield property can take a variety of forms. Often, it includes buildings which are obsolete or poorly maintained, and in many cases, it is the site of a mall or office park which was once thriving. The site may be making less income because it no longer meets the needs of tenants and the community, or because the community's demographics have shifted, leaving the greyfield behind. For example, many greyfields are in once-thriving urban areas which have been impacted by flight to the suburbs.

In many cases, greyfield land is surrounded by asphalt parking lots, which explains the name. While the real estate might have once well well-utilized, over time the land has been allowed to depreciate; the buildings may be poorly maintained, tenant turnover rates may go up, and the infrastructure of the site may be allowed to decay.

Developers often see greyfield land as an opportunity. In the right hands, such land could potentially become very profitable if taken over. Some developers may raze all the buildings and start over, constructing a site which will suit the needs of the community, while others may opt for extensive remodeling efforts. Typically a well-known anchor tenant will be attracted to the site to encourage a steady income. Developing greyfield land is usually cheaper than developing a fresh lot, because the sewer lines, electricity, and other basic infrastructure are already in place, although work may be needed to bring it up to current standards.

There are a number of advantages to developing greyfield land. In disadvantaged communities where community resources have dwindled as wealthier people leave the area, a shopping center or community hub on a greyfield can revitalize the community. For cities concerned about density and a desire to maximize the use of land within city limits, redeveloped greyfield land is often viewed as a positive thing; rather than sprawling out, the city is making use of existing land. Redevelopment also translates into high tax revenues for the land from the city, which can be appealing to cash-strapped cities.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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