In order to define what Complete Industrial Streets are, and how they are applied, it becomes important to note that the challenges associated with older industrial clusters are largely underlying with greater complexity. The Brookings Institute in Renewing America’s economic promise through Older Industrial Cities reported that the older industrial clusters have largely been unable to compete on three levels: technology adaptiveness and response, a trend toward urbanization, and a shifting demographic transformation. Generally, as industrial clusters began to settle in suburban locations due to cheaper land costs, residences followed. However, once the economy began to shift and these locations became unfavorable, and these companies no longer found it financially viable to operate, the “suburban” residences that had followed the industrial clusters became financially stricken. The demographic composition of these residents, mainly working class persons and families, was not high income, but rather mostly low income. It is in this sense that adaptability and re-incorporation of industrial properties into the fabric of the city does not only include sustaining economic growth, but also societal, political, and racial integration where inequality and an agglomeration of disadvantaged persons exist. As such Complete Industrial Streets involves the re-incorporation of antiquated and siloed streets into the fabric of the city by allowing for multimodal accessibility.

So how can complete industrial streets solve this complexity? Complete Industrial Streets alone cannot provide for re-incorporation of vacant, abandoned, or deteriorating industrial clusters back into the city, however, it can provide a base to encourage just that. Complete streets initiatives aim to create a connected road network for all users. By removing physical barriers to entry in the public realm, Complete Streets can provide a means for economic and societal inclusion, sustaining employment to support increased economic growth, and overcoming racial disparities in educational attainment, earnings, and upward mobility, that have historically threatened the success of working class residents. The association between complete streets policies and re-incorporation of industrial uses can provide substantial benefits to historically abutting low income and working-class communities.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials, or NACTO, recommends a set of complete street accommodations for industrial streets, which can be found at the following link:

1Typical Industrial Street (With Complete Street Considerations)
Source: Urban Street Stormwater Guide, NACTO.

The recommendations advocated by NACTO’s Urban Street Stormwater Guide are in part only a first step. Re-incorporation also would require the removal of physical barriers, not just within the right of way, but within private properties as well. This includes the following:

  1. Elimination of any harsh barriers, such as metal, chain link, barbed wire, razor wire, and concertina wire fencing, as well as harmful trees and shrubs that were placed purely for the purpose of separation.
  2. Incorporation of pervious pavement in driveway areas.
  3. Bus Shelter facilities and bikeways allocated on private property should limited space be available on the right of way.
  4. Clear and visible main entrance that preferably fronts on the street, otherwise a clear and visible path with appropriate signage would need to be provided in order to denote side or rear entrance from the street.
  5. Minimum of 5 feet of, not just sidewalk, but also walking paths to and from entrances and parking areas to allow for handicap accessibility.
  6. Installation of sufficient lighting in key areas.
  7. Installation of a ramp to offset any harsh elevations that maybe associated with the property.

Despite outreach and precedents, there continues to be a public misconception that complete industrial streets would ultimately hinder economic progress and is economically unfeasible to provide and support industrial uses. Some economic trends have favored more localized industry clustering such as high-tech industries, that attract people for increased economic opportunities. However, the Brookings Institute noted the following reasons for increased investment in these underperforming areas:

  1. In 2016, it was reported that long distance migration has declined in the United States as an increased number of families were observed to be income and resource constrained. Furthermore, despite the lagging economic potential of these industrial clusters, their surrounding areas continuously remain occupied by “tens of millions of people and substantial economic and social assets”.
  2. Regional inequalities reflect more than just market forces alone, but also underlying racial and ethnic barriers. Place-based interventions also cite a decreasing mobile population over the years as a rationale.
  3. More evidence has indicated that economic growth can occur simultaneously alongside reductions in regional inequality. Therefore, by removing physical barriers and offering multi-modal connections, there will in turn be a spur in the industrial clusters’ economic potential by benefiting from an increase in employment from these residences. This becomes most important in industrial clusters that abut public housing facilities or low-income communities, as it is these neighborhoods that tend to have even lower economic mobility.
  4. The Brookings Institute recommended that failing to address increasingly uneven nature of economic growth, is both economically, and socially and politically unwise, as findings indicate that these trends occur in tandem with each other.
  5. Furthermore, the Brooking Institutes further concludes that renewed investment in older industrial clusters, will simultaneously modernize the built environment while also repairing inherited legacy costs.



Berube, Alan and Murray, Cecile. “Renewing America’s economic promise through older industrial cities”. B | Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. April 2018.

Boone, Alastair. “The Fate of the Rust Belt, in 24 Cities.” CityLab, 8 May 2018,

“Complete Streets.” Smart Growth America,

DeBlasio, Donna M. “The Immigrant and the Trolley Park in Youngstown, Ohio, 1899-1945.” Rethinking History, vol. 5, no. 1, Mar. 2001, pp. 75–91. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/13642520010024172.

Richard, Florida. CityLab, and University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management. “Why Rust Belt Natives Are Coming Home.” CityLab, 31 Aug. 2017,

“Industrial Street.” National Association of City Transportation Officials, 5 Oct. 2017,


Image Source: Google Street View