Planner Speak: What on earth is infill?

It isnt’ an abbreviation for infiltrate. It isn’t what you’re supposed to do when you see “Name:                   ” written on a form.

Infill (n.) is the development of vacant or underused land in an area that already has roads, sewers, electricity and even possibly existing buildings1. An infill project could range in size from a small addition to an existing building, to the redevelopment of a single lot or an entire block.

Taking a vacant lot or an empty building and turning it into a place where people can live, do business, or do both, can bring new life and energy to an area. It also increases the tax base for the area. Developing in areas that are already built-up helps to preserve open space, farm land, and forests. It also makes use of the infrastructure that is already in place, which reduces the cost of providing new roads, sewer lines, fire stations and other facilities and services for the development.

WA-infill      NC-infill

When planners and developers work on an infill project, it is important for them to determine if the infrastructure can support the additional people that the development will bring to the area. For a new housing development, for example, the planners and developers should make sure that the roads can carry the additional traffic and the schools have room for the children that might live in the new homes.

It is also important for developers and planners to involve the community early in the development process. That way neighbors can provide input about the design and ask questions about how the development will impact the community. Developers and planners will be able to determine whether or not the development is appropriate for the community and make sure that any new development fits in with the character of the area.


The vacant lot at 728 Market Street in Downtown Chattanooga is a good example of a potential site for infill development. Here, you can see the redevelopment plan that was created for the site as part of River City Company‘s Urban Design Challenge. To make good use of the site until it can be redeveloped, River City Company transformed the lot into Center Park. Now the park is a place where people can meet up for lunch at the Food Truck Court or relax on the lawn for an outdoor movie screening. You can keep up with events and news of future development on the Center Park facebook page.

1  American Planning Association. (2006). Planning and urban design standards. Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley & Sons.

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