Category Archives: Urban Blight to Farms

Program creates jobs, removes blight | News, Sports, Jobs – Tribune Chronicle

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple TNP worker Racheal Miller, 22, of Newton Falls, boards up a window on a house on Prospect St. in Niles.

The employees are trained to salvage materials from properties scheduled to be demolished as well as doing landscaping and maintenance at properties that already have been demolished.

Source: Program creates jobs, removes blight | News, Sports, Jobs – Tribune Chronicle

Black Beekeepers Transform Detroit’s Abandoned Lots Into Bee Farms

PC Detroit Hives

“I went to the local market that I normally go to, and he suggested that I try some local honey for my cough,” Paule said. “He said you consume local honey because it has medicinal properties.”

“The couple began to think about how urban blight contributed to allergies through overgrown ragweeds in abandoned areas.” According to the report, “they put producing local honey and erasing urban blight together, and Detroit Hives was born.”

Source: Black Beekeepers Transform Detroit’s Abandoned Lots Into Bee Farms

Want to fight crime? Plant some flowers with your neighbor. | Public Radio International

Many of the once-thriving working-class neighborhoods of Flint, Mich., have been largely abandoned.

Many of the once-thriving working-class neighborhoods of Flint, Michigan, have been largely abandoned. Credit: Rebecca Cook/Reuters

Over time, community members reported fewer mental health problems, said they’d been victims of crime less often, and felt less afraid. That’s probably because crime did go down along the University Avenue Corridor: According to the coalition’s latest report, assaults decreased 54 percent, robberies 83 percent and burglaries 76 percent between 2013 and 2018.

Source: Want to fight crime? Plant some flowers with your neighbor. | Public Radio International

Roads to nowhere: how infrastructure built on American inequality | Cities | The Guardian

Abandoned properties in Baltimore’s Oliver neighbourhood

Where to build a freeway became not only an economic decision, but also a moral one – a chance to uplift and sweep clean America’s ghettos. But were they ghettos?

Source: Roads to nowhere: how infrastructure built on American inequality | Cities | The Guardian

The Astrophysicist Who Wants to Help Solve Baltimore’s Urban Blight | WIRED

THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES

“I thought: Can we measure this correlation of clustering of vacant houses the same way we made measurements about astronomy,” says Budavári. Next to unpacking the mysteries of the universe, Braverman says, “working with us would be relatively easy.”

Source: The Astrophysicist Who Wants to Help Solve Baltimore’s Urban Blight | WIRED

Baltimore May Sell Homes for $1 to Revive Neglected Neighborhoods – Black Enterprise

[Vacant buildings, 400 block of Park Avenue (west side), Baltimore, MD (Photo Credit: Flickr/Eli Pousson)]

The idea is modeled after the 1973 “Dollar House” program, which sold rundown, city-owned houses for $1 and helped revitalize ravaged neighborhoods in the city throughout the 1980s. The original program also granted buyers low-interest loans to rehabilitate the properties as long as they lived in the homes for a certain amount of time.

Source: Baltimore May Sell Homes for $1 to Revive Neglected Neighborhoods – Black Enterprise

Next for Detroit? Find uses for 900 vacant manufacturing sites

The Packard Plant’s south water tower stands above the crumbling complex in November 2010, only a few months before it, too, was brought down by scrappers. (Photo: Brian Kaufman, Detroit Free Press)

“Many of these buildings abut residential neighborhoods in some of the city’s most disadvantaged areas,” the report says. “Without a strategic approach to repurposing these properties, they will remain fallow for years to come, posing threats to public health and safety, and undermining Detroit’s recovery.”

Source: Next for Detroit? Find uses for 900 vacant manufacturing sites

Battling blight with big data | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Qian Wan , a mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate at SEAS, and co-author Bradley Pough, a J.D. candidate, provide data-driven recommendations city officials can use to battle urban housing blight.

Their paper, “Digital Analytics and the Fight Against Blight: A Guide for Local Leaders,” examines the problem of urban housing blight, identifies best practice uses of data analytics, and provides data-driven recommendations for municipal officials.

Source: Battling blight with big data | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Urban Institute Links Urban Blight and Public Health – CityLab

A man walks through a vacant lot in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/AP)

In other words, rather than wielding code enforcement as a way to punish offenders or extract revenue, Schilling argues that the wellbeing of residents ought to be restored as housing policy’s central purpose. “We need to return housing back to its roots,” he says. “Housing codes were initially framed as a way to protect public health. While there’s still some of that, it’s so often become secondary.”

Source: Urban Institute Links Urban Blight and Public Health – CityLab

Black Men In Chicago Are Taking Over Abandoned Property & Rebuilding The Neighborhood With The Youth By Creating Their Own Jobs – Better News

 

The spokesperson Mark Carter said NHS, CIC and Globe Trotters organizations were supposed to help their parents and grandparents but instead they allowed the city to demolish their homes.

Source: Black Men In Chicago Are Taking Over Abandoned Property & Rebuilding The Neighborhood With The Youth By Creating Their Own Jobs – Better News

This property is more than another abandoned building near Detroit River | MLive.com

This is a row of four townhouses on East Grand Boulevard, three blocks from East Jefferson. If you stand on the sidewalk you can see the Detroit River – right where cars turn to reach Belle Isle. That’s what gives the area its name: Islandview. Paula Gardner | PaulaGardner@mlive.com

Detroit is still a city balancing rapid redevelopment downtown with slowly rebounding real estate market – and 90,000 vacant houses.

Source: This property is more than another abandoned building near Detroit River | MLive.com

Can Big Data Predict Housing Abandonment? – CityLab

A pair of surviving rowhomes surrounded by vacant lots at dusk in Baltimore. The city has some 17,000 vacant buildings. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Budavari and Phil Garboden, a doctoral student in sociology and applied math, are working on a statistical tool to predict abandonment. They’re combining publicly available data with GIS technology to create a database of the city’s housing stock. This will serve as a base to do high-level statistical analyses that can help officials make better, data-driven evaluations of current and future interventions. It could help Baltimore study, among other things, when and why homes are abandoned, and at what point a vacant home starts affecting nearby properties.

Source: Can Big Data Predict Housing Abandonment? – CityLab

Penn calculates financial toll of blight, violence in Philadelphia | PhillyVoice

Before and after photos of a blighted property in Philadelphia. SOURCE/PENN URBAN HEALTH LAB

Based on these figures and the initial cost of remediation, the first-year return on investment to taxpayers for firearm assaults averted was $5 per abandoned building and $26 per vacant lot. The societal first-year returns on investment for firearm assaults averted were $79 for the remediation of an abandoned building and $333 for the greening of a vacant lot.“The immeasurable pain and void left when lives are lost to firearm violence sends a ripple effect through families and neighborhoods,” said Branas, director of the Penn Urban Health Lab. “This study demonstrates sustainable, replicable strategies that successfully reduce firearm violence. They can transform communities across the country, save lives, and provide well more than a full return on investment to taxpayers and their communities.”

Source: Penn calculates financial toll of blight, violence in Philadelphia | PhillyVoice

Growing Hops in Abandoned Lots? Pittsburgh Will Drink to That | Innovation | Smithsonian

Hops successfully grow up the retaining wall on a lot in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The black circles at the base of the plants are old plastic drum barrels that were cut into rings and filled with mulch from a nearby community compost. This helps to keep the hops moist. (Pete Bell)

After all, many of the growing number of craft breweries in Pittsburgh source their hops from non-local suppliers, like those in Oregon and Washington. Plus, hops seemed relatively easier: You can avoid the pest problems you face with other urban crops, since hops are so bitter. They also grow vertically, so they need little space on the ground. “I came up with an idea to grow brewing crops … to be used locally in a beer to be able to create a truly local beer,” Bell says.

Source: Growing Hops in Abandoned Lots? Pittsburgh Will Drink to That | Innovation | Smithsonian

Once Blighted Trenton Lot Goes From Eyesore to Urban Oasis | Town Topics

FROM URBAN BLIGHT TO FARM: Planting is ongoing at Trenton’s Capital City Farm, a joint effort of several non-profit groups that has turned a trash-strewn lot into a verdant space designed to provide fresh produce and more to the local community and beyond.

While Capital City Farm is only in its first season, there are signs that it is having the desired effect. “People are curious,” Ms. Mead said, “especially those who come to the Soup Kitchen. Some teenagers from the neighborhood are excited about working on the farm. People are stopping by. It’s been an interesting thing to watch.”

Source: Once Blighted Trenton Lot Goes From Eyesore to Urban Oasis | Town Topics

Gotham Greens opens massive rooftop greenhouse in Hollis, Queens | Inhabitat New York City

Located on Jamaica Avenue, the climate-controlled greenhouse is on the roof of a four-story manufacturing building that formerly housed the Ideal Toy Company. Slated to produce over 5 million heads of pesticide-free leafy greens each year for the New York market, the urban farm was installed with advanced automated greenhouse technologies using various efficient and renewable energy components.

Source: Gotham Greens opens massive rooftop greenhouse in Hollis, Queens | Inhabitat New York City

Can We Fix American Cities by Tearing Them Down? – Bloomberg Business

Governor Hogan and Mayor Rawlings-Blake Partner to Address Blight in Baltimore City.The 1000 block of North Stricker Street in west Baltimore’s Sandton-Winchester neighborhood, is slated for the demolition. Photographer: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Demolishing an abandoned building may be less complicated than figuring out what to do with the land it stood on. Detroit has sold land to neighboring home owners for $100 a lot, and it has experimented with a program to use vacant lots to prevent storm water from flooding the sewage system. In Baltimore, Hogan’s plan includes $600 million in redevelopment funding that may one day lead to new, affordable apartments and supermarkets. Initially, most lots will probably be converted into parks.

via Can We Fix American Cities by Tearing Them Down? – Bloomberg Business.

Detroit Blight Fight Continues with $15M Plan for Urban Farming | Commercial Property Executive

RecoveryPark Farms Detroit – rendering

Under the $15 million project, a 22-block area around the former Chene-Ferry Market will be transformed into a center of urban agriculture and hope for marginalized residents with significant barriers to employment. According to Duggan, 35 acres of city-owned land will be leased to the nonprofit organization from the Detroit Land Bank Authority for $105 per acre per year. In exchange, RecoveryPark will secure or demolish all vacant, blighted structures and replace them with massive greenhouses and hoop houses to grow produce.

via Detroit Blight Fight Continues with $15M Plan for Urban Farming | Commercial Property Executive.

Turning Blight into Urban Gardens and Homes | East Bay Express

Steven DeCaprio. - BERT JOHNSON

DeCaprio is the head of Land Action, a nonprofit that he created in 2011 to assist tenants with eviction defense. Two months ago, Land Action launched a campaign to build one hundred micro farms in Oakland over the next five years. The farms will be anchored by tiny homes — less than 120 square feet in size — that will house low-income Oakland residents.

The plan hinges on the use of so-called “tax-defaulted property” — land that is worth less than the taxes owed on it. In Alameda County, tax-defaulted parcels typically have been abandoned by their owners and can be publicly auctioned after five years. But attracting buyers willing to pay the back taxes and fines can be challenging.

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via Turning Blight into Urban Gardens and Homes | East Bay Express.

New Orleans Neighborhoods Scrabble For Hope In Abandoned Ruins : NPR

Despite the city's strategy of auctioning blighted properties, houses like this remain 10 years after Hurricane Katrina. Vandals have stripped the home's cypress floors and other architectural artifacts.

Despite the city’s strategy of auctioning blighted properties, houses like this remain 10 years after Hurricane Katrina. Vandals have stripped the home’s cypress floors and other architectural artifacts. Debbie Elliott/NPR

“We’ve still got a lot of blight. We’re by no means done,” says Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin. He says the city of New Orleans is waging an aggressive battle against blight, and has made inroads.

“We’ve either fixed up or demolished somewhere between 13,000 and 15,000 units, as a city,” he says.

A poll by NPR and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a little more than half of the people in New Orleans agree that progress has been made on dealing with destroyed and abandoned homes and other properties.

via New Orleans Neighborhoods Scrabble For Hope In Abandoned Ruins : NPR.

Detroit urban farm owner cited for blight says she’s being unfairly targeted – WXYZ.com

“The house up the street has stuff coming out of it.  It keeps piling up. Where is the ticket for that? It just doesn’t make sense.” Devlin said.

In November, 7 Action News Reporter Ronnie Dahl exposed dozens of blighted properties owned by Perfecting Church. Some are vacant lots with illegally dumped debris. Others are abandoned homes, sitting wide open. One house, close to a school, was being used as a drug den.

via Detroit urban farm owner cited for blight says she’s being unfairly targeted – WXYZ.com.

Restoring the Concrete Jungle: How to Address Urban Blight in 2015 – TechWire.net

Reducing blight and preventing its spread is best achieved when the solution incorporates the interest and input of active and engaged citizens. Whether it’s reporting abandoned houses to local authorities via an app or participating in public meetings to find the best way cities or neighborhoods can utilize vacant lots, solving these problems is best served from the bottom-up.

Technology is helping citizen engagement find a solution to urban decay. And many cities are starting to harness innovative civic tech products to begin to repair and rebuild some of the country’s most severely affected areas.

 

via Restoring the Concrete Jungle: How to Address Urban Blight in 2015 – TechWire.net.

Law Students Combat Urban Blight in Memphis | National Law Journal

“As far as we’ve been able to tell, there are not actually any antiblight clinics that operate this way,” said Schaffzin, a clinical professor at the law school. “The goal is for students to understand blight from a policy perspective and from a neighborhood-impact perspective.”

via Law Students Combat Urban Blight in Memphis | National Law Journal.

Detroit blight removal campaign ramps up, long way to go

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Detroit has been demolishing vacant and dilapidated structures for decades. But the effort could never keep pace with the need, with derelict factories, burned-out houses and trash-heaped lots becoming the subject of “ruin porn” viewed around the world.

But the effort to rid itself of blight ramped up earlier this year thanks to several related efforts.

via Detroit blight removal campaign ramps up, long way to go.

Painted City: Looking at Art on the Streets of Detroit | Annabel Osberg

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I have traveled extensively throughout North and South America; and having seen countless cities in varying states of dilapidation, I thought I had a good idea of what to expect in Detroit. I was wrong.

Exiting the interstate was like entering another country. The sheer magnitude of decay and devastation in Detroit is overwhelming. The number of derelict buildings literally falling apart, the piles of rubble and litter all over the streets and sidewalks, the fact that there was so little police presence in some areas, or so little human presence at all, was eerily unsettling.

2014-04-04-IMG_475550Percent.jpgvia Painted City: Looking at Art on the Streets of Detroit | Annabel Osberg.

Land Bank is fighting “urban blight” in the suburbs | Buffalo News, Buffalo Weather | WIVB-TV News 4 Buffalo, NY | WIVB.com

 

The Land Bank buys a vacant property that is still valuable and “banks” it for rehabilitation, or demolition to be re-sold and returned to the tax rolls.

“The entire community starts picking itself up once you start removing the blight,” says Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski.

The mayor says the Land Bank is helping his city, which he says can no longer afford to “fight the blight” on its own.

“With the Land Bank, we will be able to refurbish homes that are not in blighted condition, refurbish them, and sell them to somebody who wants to become a responsible homeowner,” he explained.

via Land Bank is fighting “urban blight” in the suburbs | Buffalo News, Buffalo Weather | WIVB-TV News 4 Buffalo, NY | WIVB.com.

Big City Projects Fight ‘Urban Blight’ – US – CBN News – Christian News 24-7 – CBN.com

“Some of these cities waited for somebody to come and solve their problems for them. That day is no longer with us,” Uwe Brandes, executive director of the Masters Program in Urban and regional Planning at Georgetown University, said.

Since 2010, eight cities and towns have filed for bankruptcy. The economic crisis has led residents to join forces to find creative ways to rescue and rebuild their communities.

“My friend and I had this idea, well, why don’t we just grow food in the city. Seems like a really easy plan right?” Cheryl Carmona, in Baltimore, Md., said.

From that idea grew Boone Street Farm, an urban garden in a rundown East Baltimore neighborhood.

via Big City Projects Fight ‘Urban Blight’ – US – CBN News – Christian News 24-7 – CBN.com.

Eminent Domain: A Long Shot Against Blight – NYTimes.com

Great article in the New York Times this week on blight in California.

Ms. McLaughlin if you are reading this, we are solidly behind you and Richmond. If there is anything we can do to help, please let us know!

The mayor’s plan would buy and refinance underwater mortgages in an attempt to save the city from more boarded-up houses. Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Ms. McLaughlin has a plan to help the many Richmond residents who owe more money on their houses than their houses are worth, but it’s one that banks like Wells Fargo, large asset managers like

Pimco and BlackRock, real estate interests and even Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance giants, have tried to quash. Her idea involves a novel use of the power of eminent domain to bail out homeowners by buying up and then forgiving mortgage debt.

But the financial institutions have warned that mortgage lending would halt in any city that tried eminent domain — and they have lobbied Congress to ensure that the threat is not an empty one. Opponents have filed federal lawsuits, while real estate interests have made robocalls to residents and sent mass mailers warning that the plan would allow “slick, politically connected” investors to “take houses on the cheap.” (The idea is actually to buy mortgages, not houses.)

via Eminent Domain: A Long Shot Against Blight – NYTimes.com.

16-Year-Old Coney Island Boardwalk Community Garden Bulldozed Ahead of Childs Restaurant Revamp | Inhabitat New York City

The technique of demolition under cover of night has to stop. It is common practice to bulldoze community sensitive places, like historical buildings or in this example – gardens with animals.

It is unethical for developers to demolish buildings and raze structures under cover of darkness without advanced notification to the community.

We really need to address the permitting processes at the government level if we are going to change this grievous practice. Then make it punishable by law and preferable jail-time for developer perpetrators.

Coney Island, Boardwalk Community Garden, Environmental Destruction, Bulldozer, Demolition, Marty Markowitz, iStar Financial, amphitheater, Child’s Restaurant, Child’s Building, Community Gardens, Brooklyn, West 22nd Street, Child’s Restaurant Revamp, $53 million amphitheater project, garden demolition, Boardwalk Community Garden Demolition, Boardwalk Community Garden Destruction,

Community activists told the NY Post that construction workers waited until 5 a.m. on the morning of December 28th to begin the abrupt demolition. According to witnesses, work crews first gathered and moved the 20 chickens living in the garden to pet carriers outside the plot, however it seems that dozens of cats, rabbits, and pigeons fled before the machines moved in. Soon after, backhoes and bulldozers rolled in, tearing apart plots that have grown everything from hundreds of pounds of tomatoes, cabbage, zucchinis, and other vegetables.

via 16-Year-Old Coney Island Boardwalk Community Garden Bulldozed Ahead of Childs Restaurant Revamp | Inhabitat New York City.

Foes of Urban Blight Take Aim at Landlords – WSJ.com

Fantastic article, read the entire piece here. This is a great model for inspiring change, Carol Ott and the artists are heroes in our book.

Baltimore artists have painted murals on 17 vacant buildings, including the house shown. Blogger Carol Ott, who advised them, faces vandalism suits. Jonathan Hanson for The Wall Street Journal

Since early 2009, Carol Ott has run a website called Baltimore Slumlord Watch. On an almost daily basis, she posts photographs of boarded-up or dilapidated buildings and the names and addresses of owners she identifies through public records.

Last month, Ms. Ott was sued for her role in a recent project in which artists painted murals on 17 vacant buildings in the city. Two civil lawsuits filed in state court in Baltimore allege the work was an act of vandalism at two properties and seek $5,000 to restore the buildings to their prior condition.

“We’re using these methods because nothing else has been working,” said the street artist who organized the project with $12,000 from an anonymous donor and goes by the name Nether. He counted it as a victory that one of the 17 properties has since been demolished.

via Foes of Urban Blight Take Aim at Landlords – WSJ.com.

Urban decay to be replaced with farmland in Detroit | Fox News

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A private company is snapping up 150 acres on the Motor City’s East End — property where more than 1,000 homes once formed a gritty neighborhood — and turning it into what is being billed as the world’s largest urban farm. Hantz Woodlands plans to start by planting trees, but hopes to raise crops and even livestock in the future, right in the midst of the once-proud city.

Hantz needed approval from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to buy up the 1,500 parcels for approximately $450,000, or $300 per parcel. Many of the parcels held dilapidated and abandoned homes and buildings and were condemned by the city. Others were rubble-strewn or weed-choked lots. The company intends to spend $3 million to clean out the areas.

“Your eyes would have a hard time absorbing the blight,” Score said. “A third of every neighborhood in Detroit has been devalued by blight on public property.

via Urban decay to be replaced with farmland in Detroit | Fox News.

State lawmakers look to crack down on urban blight | Michigan Radio

Many property owners who break anti-blight laws would face tougher penalties under bills approved Thursday in the state House. Under the legislation, the worst offenders could spend up to a year behind bars.

State Rep. Amanda Price (R-Park Township) says a number of Michigan cities have good anti-blight laws on the books. But she says the consequences for breaking those laws aren’t tough enough to deter people.

“So it puts the teeth into what those cities are trying to do in eliminating blight,” said Price.

via State lawmakers look to crack down on urban blight | Michigan Radio.

Bank accused of fostering urban blight – Toledo Blade

Bank of America is accused of failing to maintain foreclosed homes it owns in minority neighborhoods in Toledo, a charge the bank denies, saying it markets its properties regardless of location.

 

 

 

 

 

Bank of America is accused of failing to maintain foreclosed homes it owns in minority neighborhoods in Toledo, a charge the bank denies, saying it markets its properties regardless of location.
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The NFHA first filed a complaint against Bank of America in September, 2012, alleging the Charlotte bank had neglected homes in many working-class minority neighborhoods nationwide, violating the Fair Housing Act.

With Thursday’s announcement, the complaint now includes 20 metro areas.

In Toledo, fair housing officials visited 22 properties they said were owned by Bank of America. Eight were in predominantly black neighborhoods. Fourteen were in predominantly white neighborhoods.

NFHA said the properties in the predominantly black neighborhoods were four and a half times more likely to have substantial trash on the lot. The organization said two of the eight properties had unsecured, broken, or boarded doors. None of the 14 properties in a white neighborhood had that problem, officials said.

via Bank accused of fostering urban blight – Toledo Blade.

BioCellar Turns Abandoned Cleveland House into a Center for Urban Farming | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

biocellar, permaculture design, jean loria, rob donaldson, mansfield frazier, east cleveland, vacant housing, urban renewal, urban agriculture, urban farming, solar power, aquaponics, chateau hough

Cleveland has just unveiled the world’s first BioCellar, a sustainable agriculture project that’s a smart mix of urban design, architecture, and biology. Built upon the masonry foundation of an abandoned house, the passive greenhouse is a stunning example of how an urban renewal project can bring fresh produce and life to a food desert in a blighted neighborhood.

via BioCellar Turns Abandoned Cleveland House into a Center for Urban Farming | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building.

Neighborhood Converts Blighted Lot into Thriving Urban Farm | For Richmond

City administrators agreed to lease Brooks the land for $100 a year for five years. Since then, Brooks, who works as an usher at San Francisco Giants games and officiates high school sports in the off-season, has filled the lot with raspberries, tomatoes growing like weeds, several varieties of onions, potatoes, artichokes, garlic, zucchini and other veggies.

For Richmond applauds the changes residents like Brooks are bringing to Richmond. This initiative is what built Richmond in the past and what will bring about its improvement in the future.

“People are taking pride in this community,” said Dr. Desmond Carson, a physician at Doctors Medical Center, the For Richmond health chair and a local parks advocate. “Not only are neighbors cleaning up blight, but they are practicing a green approach to putting fresh food on the tables here in Richmond. It improves so many aspects of the quality of life here. Residents are getting fresh food, they’re gardening, getting outside and exercising. And they’re making these neighborhoods more appealing.”

Brooks’ effort has been contagious. Now, neighbors want to turn another empty lot down the street into a park. And residents in the community are drawn to Brooks’ creation, stopping to chat, check on the watermelon plants and offer to help.

“That’s the fun thing about this garden. Folks are inspired by what we’re doing here and they want to get involved,” Brooks said.

Brooks found a way to create a sustainable garden – using recycled plastic bottles to help with irrigation – and another community member and artist created a greenhouse made of wine bottles.

via Neighborhood Converts Blighted Lot into Thriving Urban Farm | For Richmond.

Blighted East Baltimore land to become urban farm – Baltimore Business Journal

The property includes several pumping stations that used to provide water to the city. Those historic structures will be renovated to include a commercial kitchen that will serve as a food incubator for small businesses, including caterers. Land surrounding those buildings will include portable greenhouses known as “hoop houses” along the train tracks running alongside the parcel.

The site at 1801 E Oliver St. is slated to become an urban farm.

Partnerships are planned with Woodberry Kitchen, a restaurant that is seeking local produce for its menu offerings, and the nonprofit Humanim, which is planning a community kitchen on the site.

Devan said the project will create 100 construction jobs and eventually 100 permanent jobs.

BDC President Brenda McKenzie said the project will also be beneficial to the city and the neighborhood by providing access to healthy foods through a farmers market planned for the site.

“It’s also important in terms of reactivating that part of East Baltimore,” McKenzie said. “There’s been a lot of research done that shows foodie culture is another way for people to look at the city differently.”

via Blighted East Baltimore land to become urban farm – Baltimore Business Journal.

Detroit foodies promote urban farming as way to fight blight, grow economy | Crain’s Detroit Business

Detroit, which filed an $18 billion bankruptcy July 18, is reeling from the loss of more than 435,000 jobs in its metro area from 2000 to 2010, according to federal data.

Greg Willerer is embracing urban agriculture in Detroit. By selling at farmers markets, local restaurants and a community-supported agriculture project that sells his goods directly to consumers, Willerer said he can make $20,000 to $30,000 per acre in a year.

This has left it with an abundance of underused property. The city is spread over 139 square miles and has an estimated 150,000 vacant and abandoned parcels, according to a report this year by Detroit Future City, a planning project created by community leaders.

Converting some of that land to farming could clean up blight and grow jobs, regional officials say. With sufficient consumer demand and the emergence of a local food-processing industry, 4,700 jobs and $20 million in business taxes could be generated, according to a 2009 study.

“It will help,” said Mike DiBernardo, an economic development specialist with Michigan’s agriculture department. “We have so much blighted land that we can create opportunities for entrepreneurs, and we can give people in the community something to be excited about.”

via Detroit foodies promote urban farming as way to fight blight, grow economy | Crain’s Detroit Business.

Land banks: A tool for managing urban blight | Emory University | Atlanta, GA

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In the past two years, Alexander and his Community Progress team — which includes Emory Law alumni Leslie Powell and Sara Toering — have also aided the passage of land bank legislation in Georgia, Missouri, New York and Pennsylvania.

Simply put, land banks offer an effective tool for public officials to acquire, hold, manage, develop and/or resell problem properties, putting them back into productive use for neighborhood restoration, community investment and development, Alexander says.

And in recent years, the demand for help with establishing land banking reforms has only grown. “One of the reasons we created the Center for Community Progress was simply the volume of requests we were receiving from around the country,” he explains.

For struggling communities, the costs can be considerable: A 2010 study commissioned in Philadelphia found vacant and abandoned properties cost the city more than $20 million in annual maintenance costs and $2 million annually in lost tax revenues — not to mention the impact to community vitality and cohesion, Alexander notes.

via Land banks: A tool for managing urban blight | Emory University | Atlanta, GA.

How Michigan can fight blight in urban areas: Join us for a live chat | MLive.com

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FLINT, MI — Michigan has received approval to spend $100 million in federal funds to demolish thousands of vacant homes in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Pontiac and Saginaw.

So how will this affect those communities, as well as the state of Michigan? How is blight eroding your urban neighborhood?

At 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 18, MLive-Flint Journal will host a live chat in the comments of this post on blight issues with local legislators, officials and a representative from MSHDA.

via How Michigan can fight blight in urban areas: Join us for a live chat | MLive.com.

New state law offers hope of revitalizing longstanding urban blight | al.com

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State Senator Linda Coleman.

“There are people who would develop or rehabilitate some of these old, historic houses if they can get ownership of some of these properties,” Coleman said.

Under the new rules, the state will waive its lien and transfer the state’s interest to the new local land banks.

Local governments may then offer the property to entities for redevelopment. The new law also expands notification provisions for property owners who are still allowed to redeem their properties if they pay the back taxes.

Coleman stressed that the law was not designed to take away an owner’s property, but to put long abandoned land back to productive use.

Coleman and city officials said the provision opens several possibilities for Birmingham, including residential redevelopment and economic development.

“Economic development people are already trying to assemble sites for people who want to come here. The problem is you’ve got a piece in the middle with no clear title to it. This whole current process caused blight. This was always the missing piece because the process was too cumbersome.”

via New state law offers hope of revitalizing longstanding urban blight | al.com.

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Auction ensures the fairest compensation for civic resource exchanges at different levels.

Data Gathering

GrowShare gathers city data like crime & vacant lots to help users grow & share.

Open Source Technologies

We have deployed the following Open Source technologies for this project:

Google Map API

Google Places API

WeBid Auction Engine

MySQL database with temporal and spatial datasets

Twitter, FB and g+ APIs

jQuery Mobile 1.2.0

PhoneGap

Data Sources

For this alpha release, we have tapped the following data sources:

Google Maps and Google Places

Vacant Lots, City of Philadelphia

Recreation and parks, City of Philadelphia

CrimeReports.com

Team

The GrowShare.net team is led by Professor Justin Y. Shi, Associate Professor and Associate Chairman of CIS Department at Temple University.

Team Members:

Kristiyan Georgiev | Graduate Ph.D. Candidate | CIS Department, College of Science and Technology

Brett M Statman | Senior Undergraduate | Digital Media, Tyler School of Art

William S Mantegna | Senior Undergraduate | MIS Department, Fox School of Business

Han-Lin Wu | Graduate MS Candidate | ECE Department, School of Engineering

via GrowShare.

This old prison in Illinois may be transformed into a farming paradise | Grist

The former Hanna City Work Camp stands deserted in 2003 near Hanna City.

It’s not every day that a former prison work camp is given new life as a place to grow food. But that’s exactly what’s happening in Peoria, Ill., where Hanna City, the shuttered facility that was also once a home for delinquent boys and a 1950s Air Force radar base, is being reborn as a food hub and farm incubator site.

Hanna City Work Camp anneinhoophouse2011

Go read this inspiring article via This old prison in Illinois may be transformed into a farming paradise | Grist.

Treasure Island farm for culinary students – SFGate

Coordinator Corey Block (blue shirt) with students David Christensen (left), Roul Henry and Jose Marsonet. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF

And it’s not only the culinary students who take part in running the urban farm, Block said. Students from the center’s construction training programs also have participated by providing infrastructure on the 1 acre.

Block said she has no doubt that the farm is one of the draws for culinary students to choose Treasure Island over other Job Corps centers in the country. Of all the programs nationwide, Treasure Island has the highest overall job placement – 85 percent either go to work, into the military or enroll in college, according to the center.

Q: It couldn’t have been easy planting a farm on an artificial island made from fill dredged from the bay, which served as a former military base. Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found some parts of the island to be toxically contaminated, how did you handle that?

A: It was a vacant lot when we got it – just sand. We did thousands of dollars worth of testing before we did anything. Then we built the whole thing using green construction – reclaimed materials, rain water catchment and an aquaponic system.

Q: What are you growing?

A: Everything. We have 80 fruit trees: apples, pears, stone and citrus and all kinds of vegetables and herbs. We have bee hives, 20 laying hens and a rooster. We get about 20 eggs a day. The students are harvesting, depending on the season, anywhere from 200 to 600 pounds of produce a month. A hundred percent of it is used either in the culinary program or the cafeteria.

Henry examines a bunch of chard that was grown on the farm worked by Job Corps members on Treasure Island. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF

Urban farm coordinator Corey Black  (right) showing Treasure Island Job Corps culinary students Kunphel Rangkor (left), from Minnesota, Roul Henry (middle) from Connecticut,  Luis Gonzalez (tie) from Puerto Rico, and Aaron Rohr (tall)  from Washington a broccoli bed on the farm onTreasure Island, Calif.,  on Monday, November 19, 2012. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF

via Treasure Island farm for culinary students – SFGate.

596 Acres: Mapping New York City’s public vacant land

“Thank you for notifying the community about vacant land! I pass the lot on Myrtle between Marcy and Nostrand very often, and I always enjoy looking at the herbs and wildflowers growing there. I thought it would be a wonderful spot for a small urban farm, but I figured it might have been owned by whoever owns the condos surrounding it. You taught me different.” Email recieved on July 1, 2011, about 10 days after labeling the lot in question.

596 Acres is helping neighbors form connections to the vacant public lots in their lives.

Hundreds of acres of vacant public land exist in New York City, hidden in plain sight behind chain-link fences in neighborhoods where green space and other public amenities are scarce. We are building the tools for communities to get the keys legally and unlock all these rusty gates—and the opportunities within them. These include:

(1) making municipal information available through an online interactive map;

(2) placing signs on vacant public land that explain each lot’s status and steps that the community can take in order to be able to use this land;

(3) visioning sessions for education about public land holdings by invitation from community groups;

(4) engaging the community when an interested potential leader reaches out; and

(5) direct advocacy with New York City agencies.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/35546744 w=400&h=300]

via 596 Acres: About Us.

Counting the harvest: How numbers can save urban gardens | Grist

Really insightful article on the benefit of quantifying community gardens to policy makers.

“Gardeners are Philadelphia’s vacant land stewards,” says Cahn. “Yet from a policy perspective, the city still views urban agriculture as a temporary activity.”

“The surveys project helps tell both stories — of the resurgent interest in gardens and the continued need to preserve them.”

Specifically, the research has revealed improving conditions for Philadelphia’s community gardens. “Gardens and farms have increased by over 100 in the past four years,” Cahn says. The survey data will help her make a legal case for gardens across the city.

These surveys add to a large body of research on the benefits of gardening on vacant land. A recent study by another University of Pennsylvania researcher found that planting gardens on empty lots reduced violence in the surrounding area. Further research is needed to tell whether it’s the gardeners themselves or their plants that are driving away gangbangers.

Read the entire article via Counting the harvest: How numbers can save urban gardens | Grist.

For young farmers: No land, but plenty of climate change to go around | Grist

http://vimeo.com/41302992

At a gathering of Central Jersey organic farmers recently — it was a potluck — I listened in on a conversation between two of the veteran farmers in the room. They weren’t exactly elderly; they just weren’t in their 20s like almost everyone else in attendance. The two farmers discussed how a decade ago, the same potluck would have been a quiet, sparsely populated affair. Tonight the room was alive.

It won’t stay that way unless we find those youngsters some well-drained Garden State farmland to call their own. I suspect it’s the same story all across this nation.

Read the entire article via For young farmers: No land, but plenty of climate change to go around | Grist.

New San Francisco legislation will jump-start urban farming | Grist

Bay Area locavores and caterpillars rejoice: An edible urban jungle is poised to sprout in San Francisco.

City supervisors approved legislation Tuesday that will help grassroots farming groups replace barren concrete and forests of weeds on vacant land and rooftops with veggie gardens, chicken coops, and honeybee hives. And the move cements San Francisco’s role as a national leader in urban food production.

“[San Franciscans] are thought of as foodies, and environmentalists,” said Laura Tam, a policy director at the nonprofit San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association (SPUR), which helped push the new rules forward. “This is a marrying of our sustainability objectives with the reputation that we have in the world.”

The legislation [PDF] follows zoning changes last year that made it easier to operate small farms and legal to sell food grown in San Francisco. This new set of laws will take it further by removing additional bureaucratic barriers for hopeful gardeners and actively searching for land they can use while providing them with seeds, tools, and advice.

A major focus of the bill is community gardening — neighbors coming together to organize, till, and cultivate plots of land in mini-farms that are managed cooperatively.

Aided by $120,000 in city funding in its first year, the Urban Agriculture Program will hire a city official or nonprofit organization to oversee all community gardening within San Francisco. The city’s utility agency will also provide additional funds to support two farms on land that it owns.

The program will audit city-owned land and rooftops in a quest to dig up potential new public gardening sites. It will also develop incentives for owners of vacant lots to allow their land to be used for community farming.

Passage of the bill follows a rise in popularity of urban farming nationally, which has been fueled by the locavore and organic food movements, and by the recession, which has left lots vacant and families hungry.

Continue reading New San Francisco legislation will jump-start urban farming | Grist

Vacant Lots: Crowd-Sourcing The Sustainable Neighborhood | Earthtechling

What happens when you get everyday people thinking about the challenges that have occupied city planners for years — and give them the tools to do something about it? The City 2.0 project recently caught our attention for doing just that, and now we’ve seen nonprofits like the Network Center for Community Change in Kentucky and People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) in New York using this people-powered approach to tackle a key issue in creating sustainable, livable neighborhoods: vacant buildings and lots.

Network Center for Community Change, a community action group based in Louisville, has been mapping neighborhoods to identify vacant lots and houses that need renovation, along with more stable pieces of property. In so doing, it aims to help the community make decisions that better reflect local conditions and needs. Once these “opportunities for improvement” have been established, the group mobilizes residents and other stakeholders to work with municipal authorities in developing strategic redevelopment projects that will boost local property values, increase quality of life in the neighborhood, and/or create jobs.

Green Development Zone community garden

The Network started this Louisville initiative back in 2010 because it realized that official statistics concerning vacant properties in the area were often inaccurate, often by as much as 30 percent in either direction. Having accurate numbers, in terms of neighborhood vacancies, has aided the group in getting local elected officials on board with the development/redevelopment projects deemed most critical by the people who actually live and work in these communities.

 

In Buffalo, a related effort is underway with the Green Development Zone, a project of PUSH. This grassroots effort began with the intention of creating a new community economy in a blighted 25-square block area of the city’s West Side — which, like many urban areas across the country, was faced with deteriorating housing, hundreds of vacant lots, and fewer and fewer jobs for local residents. In 2005, residents discovered that a New York State housing agency was using these vacant houses and lots in Buffalo to speculate on Wall Street; the organization formed and proceeded to launch a militant campaign in response to this that resulted in millions of dollars for the state’s neighborhoods through New York’s Block by Block program.

Network Center neighborhood map

Using people power, PUSH was able to start rehabilitating neglected housing on the West Side. In 2011, those efforts paid off in widespread recognition, as the Green Development Zone initiative was one of three programs from a list of dozens of sustainable housing efforts around the world to win the award for Sustainable Housing: Collaborating for Livable and Inclusive Cities from Ashoka Changemakers, an organization dedicated to collaboration in the service of affecting global change.

 

Through this and other programs, PUSH has succeeded in insulating and winterizing older homes in Buffalo, developing new green affordable housing units, building the city’s first Net-Zero Energy House, and a major park renovation/improvement (created with widespread community input), as well as turning numerous vacant properties into community gardens and rain gardens.

A key tool used by both campaigns has been maps of vacant areas created based on reports from community residents. By creating publicly available maps of vacant areas in need of improvement, these community groups are paving the way to neighborhood improvement at the grassroots level.

via Vacant Lots: Crowd-Sourcing The Sustainable Neighborhood | Earthtechling.