Originally derived from a Puritan settlement, the Central Valley became a center of hat manufacturing in North America due to excellent traffic connections. By 1892, 21 firms were engaged in hat manufacturing, employing over 3,700 people. The early twentieth century saw a decline in hat production with the last manufacturing plant closing during 1960.
The suburbanization in post WW II America hit the Oranges hard. Interstate 287 made the commute easier and people left the urbanized areas. The 1967 racial riots in Newark added to that trend. In the year 2007, the Central Valley was characterized by an uncomfortable mix of underutilized real estate, abandoned industrial buildings and nineteenth century working class housing. Streetscapes and open spaces did not invite active uses. Fifteen brownfield sites, which needed remediation, add to the complex challenges for urban revitalization.
In this landscape architecture design class, Each student was individually faced with the complexity urban design problems. Most projects responded by attempting to balance the needs of redevelopment without displacing current populations. Others recognized the importance of taking small steps and the significance such initial projects can have on the larger context. However, the big lesson learned in the Central Valley is that soil contamination is not a barrier to redevelopment. Rather, brownfield remediation was interpreted as an opportunity for the state to meet some of its most pressing planning issues. It is this perspective that begins to question current assumptions and biases that categorize the postindustrial landscape simply as blighted and underutilized. Furthermore, in the twenty-first century, it is this visioning process and critical perspective that will allow Landscape Architects to contribute to address the pressing issues that face our contemporary communities.