Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is pushing a plan to turn parcels of city-owned vacant land into urban farms and orchards. The HOME GR/OWN program has long been stalled, but received a boost from the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge. Many of the properties are in the city's troubled Lindsay Heights neighborhood, where a network of nonprofits already works to alleviate the effects of Milwaukee’s disinvestment and foreclosure crises. HOME GR/OWN will work in concert with Barrett’s Strong Neighborhoods Investment Plan, an $11.8 million program to perform a kind of triage on ailing housing stock. The city-funded initiative promotes marketing of salvageable homes and vacant lots, but it also bankrolls the destruction of 300 structures deemed beyond repair. The initiative follows similar programs across the country, including in Chicago, where the Green Healthy Neighborhoods plan captured imaginations in 2011 but has since failed to secure funding. Still, the program’s promise is welcome in a city with as many as 18,000 vacant properties. Its proponents say it may be a cost-effective way to address many intertwined problems at once—many have seized on urban agriculture's potential to create jobs in communities struggling with violence.
Posts tagged with "Vacant Land":
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer started 2014 off with a call to citizens: Help the city come up with creative ideas to redevelop vacant land. Local and far-flung designers are invited to re-imagine the land in a new competition. The winners of the Lots of Possibility competition will be awarded a total of $38,000 to put their vision into action. That money comes from local grant funding. A jury will choose six finalists in each of the competition’s two categories: residential or commercial use; and proposals involving temporary or interim use of vacant lots. Up to two winners will get $15,000 for long-term residential or commercial development, while up to two more could receive a one-year land lease and $4,000 to implement temporary ideas. “The rules for this competition are simple—be creative and be bold,” Fischer said in a press release. Louisville recently launched its VAPStat (Vacant and Abandoned Property Statistics) program to share public information about abandoned properties, foreclosure and redevelopment opportunities. There are more than 6,000 vacant lots in the area, with a high concentration in western Louisville. A 2013 study estimated about half of the approximately 6,000 vacant properties would “be remedied through normal market forces.” The Louisville/Jefferson County Landbank Authority and the Urban Renewal Commission own many more sites that they’re working to redevelop. More than 250 lots (list) have been made available for the Lots of Possibility competition. “[T]he faster the number of VAP properties are reduced,” reads the VAPStat study, “the sooner they become revenue-producing real estate and the sooner they start to have positive effects on their surrounding neighborhoods.” Sponsoring the competition are the Department of Community Services and Revitalization, Vision Louisville and the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, funded in part by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The competition page lists as inspiration St. Louis' Sustainable Land Lab, Youngstown, Ohio's Lots of Green program, and Flint, Michigan's Flatlot competition. Entries are due Feb. 24. The winners will be announced in April. Entry information here.
After a long, cold winter, many of us are itching to lock away our wool coats, slip into our flip-flops, and dash to the beach. That's especially the case for Matt Tomasulo, the artist behind the Raleigh Beach proposal that would transform the corner of West Hargett Street into an alluring summertime oasis in inland North Carolina. His Raleigh Beach rendering depicts sunbathers soaking up the sun while lying on the sand as swimmers cool-off in the pools. Tomasulo, who is also the founder of CityFabrics, a company that prints figure-ground city maps on t-shirts, wallets, and more, daringly printed and posted a large rendering on his Raleigh Beach proposal on a fence at the vacant lot in Raleigh just outside of downtown, later splashing the scene online on the proposal's Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook pages where it attracted hundreds of followers and received both positive and negative reactions from the community. This isn't the first time Tomasulo has stirred things up—in a good way—in Raleigh. The designer was also responsible for last year's Walk Raleigh "guerilla way-finding" movement, in which he and a small group of students posted 27 colorful signs on three street corners in Raleigh that stated how long it would take to walk from one destination to the other. His goal was to promote a healthier community by encouraging people to do more walking. The campaign successfully generated discussion about walking in Raleigh and attracted the attention of over 23 cities who wanted to bring the movement to their own city, leading Tomasulo to launch the Walk [Your City] website. Small-scale interventions like the Walk Raleigh campaign are part of a growing trend toward Tactical Urbanism to transform American cities. This time, though, Tomasulo confessed that his Raleigh Beach concept is fake and that the proposed scene would not be coming to Raleigh this summer, despite bold letters on the sign stating, "Coming this summer!" But with enough support, one day it could. His aim was to pique the community’s interests, start a conversation about the transformation of the empty, unused downtown lot, and encourage people to think about the best way for it to serve the community. If he can rally enough support for the project Tomasulo might be able to convince the property owner, 607 West Morgan Street, to transform his city-beach rendering into a reality. After all, urban beaches like this aren't unprecedented. Paris has famously shipped tons of sand and palm trees onto the banks of the Seine in the summer for its Paris Plage program. The French city—which has been ahead of its time on other urban interventions like a High Line style park, the Promenade Plantée, that predates New York's wildly popular example—announced last year the Paris Plage could become a completely car-free waterfront. Paris Plages 2012 en panoramique by mairiedeparis
The winners of St. Louis’ first-ever “Sustainable Land Lab” competition, put on by Washington University and city officials, attempted to make the most of a regrettably abundant resource: vacant lots. Local architects took top honors in a competition that garnered some four dozen submissions. Each winner gets a two-year lease on a North St. Louis vacant lot and $5,000 in seed money to realize their ideas. Five winning projects will share four lots (two finalist teams combined their proposals into one new plan) across the city. 1. Bistro Box / Renewing Roots Urban Farm (now called Our Farm) — Repurposed shipping containers comprise a small, unpretentious restaurant attached to an urban farm. 2. Chess Pocket Park — Just what it sounds like. A small park meant to build community around outdoor chess tables. 3. Mighty Mississippians — A "modern agricultural model" would combine farming, recreation and environmental remediation in a permacultural park. 4.Sunflower+ Project — A test plot for environmental remediation via sunflower and winter wheat farming. The plants will be encouraged through electroculture, an experimental farming technique that uses electricity to encourage plant growth. St. Louis, like many cities pock-marked with vacant land, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year just mowing vacant parcels. The land lab competition follows other innovative design competitions, like Flint, Michigan's Flat Lot and the Cleveland Design Competition, that encourage adaptive reuse and creative public projects throughout the Midwest. A ground-breaking ceremony is scheduled for April 27.