Vacant to Vibrant
About the Work
Vacant to Vibrant is a 4-year, 3-city project that examines the effectiveness of clustered, small urban greening installations to provide environmental and social benefits to communities. In the midst of a variety of important work in urban land reuse, green infrastructure, and urban greening, Vacant to Vibrant will explore the role of individual vacant residential parcels in helping manage stormwater and improving the fabric of neighborhoods. This is one potentially important approach among many that will be needed to revitalize legacy neighborhoods in the Great Lakes region that have experienced depopulation, housing abandonment, and demolition.
Vacant to Vibrant is composed of three clustered, improved residential parcels in each of three Great Lakes neighborhoods: Aetna in Gary, IN; Woodland Hills in Cleveland, OH; and West Buffalo in Buffalo, NY—older, low-density residential neighborhoods that are occupied mostly by people of color. A mix of owned homes, rental homes, and current demolition efforts will provide an opportunity for economic stabilization. Installations are designed to both capture stormwater capture and provide needed recreational space. A network of scientific professionals will measure the effectiveness of our installations to achieve various ecologic and social goals.
How It Started
In the 18 months leading up to Vacant to Vibrant, the Botanical Garden convened a diverse panel of experts from multiple Great Lakes cities. Their collective experience covered urban farming as well as city planning, vacant land management, sewer and stormwater infrastructure, environmental sustainability, governance, and other issues. The purpose of the convenings was to characterize common problems among urban areas along the Great Lakes, understand existing efforts, and explore overlapping solutions.
From this process, we identified 3 needs that could be identified in most urban areas in the Great Lakes basin: restoring vacant land to productive use, managing stormwater, and working toward environmental justice for urban residents.
Woodland Hills Neighborhood Sites:
Tucked between two occupied residences, and adjacent to CMHA housing on Woodland Avenue to the north, the Crestwood site has gone from a thicket of wild grass to an active pocket park for Crestwood's young kids.
The residents of Hulda helped to design a more passive site where residents can take in the natural beauty of rain garden plants and hopefully a slew of birds to fill all of those birdhouses!
With a natural play area, the Shale site will be more unique than any other V2V location. Vacancies to the north and west show potential in further greening. The curbside bioretention feature should also be impressive once plants mature.