Kennecott, Utah: Brownfield/Greenfield

By By Randy Jackson and John Martin | December 31, 2004


Kennecott, Utah The development of Kennecott has spurred both brownfield remediation and a commitment to sustainability at both the development and building levels.


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Brownfield development involves land that has been desecrated one way or another. Greenfield development is largely virgin territory. Kennecott, 93,000 acres of mountain range within easy sight-distance from Salt Lake City, is a lot of each. The fabled Kennecott Copper Mine is a gargantuan open pit mine that has given up metal ore for over a hundred years. Rehabilitation was not on the agenda when that operation started. Yet, that huge hole in the ground is only a tiny fraction of the acreage that surrounds it. This mountainous resource has been stewarded by the Kennecott Company for generations.

It is this paradoxical character of the land that makes the Kennecott Plan such an intriguing form of community planning. At once a testimony to the challenge of cleaning up an aged pit mine and the benefits of sensitive treatment of the land around it, the Plan envisions a self-contained new town within minutes of Utah's dominant urban center, amid recently expanding suburban communities. The Plan contains many of the features one would expect in response to contemporary planning practice: schools, jobs, trails, transit, shopping and all the other attributes that we have come to expect in a master planned community. It also contains a significant commitment to "green building," taking the environmental sensitivity associated with large scale development down to the building project level.

Since the land is in a single ownership, this development will be phased over many years, making the ability to adapt to future housing and employment market forces a necessity, not a luxury. As with other developments involving large land holdings, Kennecott will no doubt display an unusual array of housing types and land use mixes. A sophisticated spread-sheet system not only facilitated exploring numerous options for the focused development areas making up the Plan, it will also support the essential phasing entailed in such a large project. Because of the extensive mountain resource, ways have been found to provide each development cluster with its own natural "edge." Moreover, options are included for deriving benefit from the immense piles of tailings that, in effect, are man-made mountains.