In the United States, vacant land is a major consequence in shrinking cities of the Midwest and Northeast. Strategies to repurpose vacant land can aid in urban revitalization efforts.
In 2014, the City of Chicago initiated the Large Lot Program that provides property owners in high-vacancy neighborhoods an opportunity to purchase one or two city-owned vacant residential lots on their block for $1 each.
Researchers evaluated purchased lots documenting initial lot conditions and condition one or more years later using a condition/care scale.
Field crew enjoying a lunch break at the Garfield Park Conservatory.
In this lot, the before image shows grass has overgrown giving it an unkempt look. (Before)
Note turf improvements one year after purchase. (After)
This lot is being used as an impromptu parking lot. (Before)
Lot owners have taken what was once a car parking area and added equipment for social and recreational use. (After)
In this lot, although the grass is maintained, there is very little additional vegetation. (Before)
A grass covered lot has been converted to a garden by lot owners and a fence has been added. (After)
Not all lot purchases resulted in improvements. This lot owner had planned to turn the lot into a play area for children but his plan fell through. He now uses it as a place to park cars.
Overall, scientists found engagement in the Large Lot program fulfills both personal and community goals.
Scientists are continuing to investigate how vacant lot stewardship leads to broader social outcomes, such as reduction in crime. Scientists are also hoping this approach for evaluating progress in vacant land reuse programs is generalizable to other needs of urban greening professionals.