Tuesday, August 21, 2012  |   Email   Print

Cleveland Botanical Garden Guides Great Lakes Cities in Replacing Vacant Lots with Vibrant Plots

Great Lakes cities that transform vacant lots into green infrastructure will see a variety of social, economic and environmental benefits, according to a consortium of organizations from nine Great Lakes cities and guided by Cleveland Botanical Garden.

Forty-two representatives from organizations in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Chicago, Gary, Flint, Detroit, Toledo, Buffalo and Rochester gathered for the “Reclaiming Vacant Properties as Green Infrastructure in Great Lakes Cities” conference July 31 to August 1 at the University of Michigan’s Detroit Center. They shared with one another their progress in using green infrastructure techniques, including large-scale nurseries, urban farms, pervious surfaces and low-maintenance groundcover plants to store stormwater, filter air, reduce urban temperature and provide habitats for insects, birds and animals. This was the second in a series of explorations to produce scalable, measurable projects in neighborhoods of Great Lakes cities experiencing large vacancy rates.

Urban practitioners illustrated examples in their cities, highlighting barriers and strategies to turn vacant properties into vibrant community space, increasing social, economic and environmental goals in the process. Additionally, participants began planning multi-city collaborations to answer questions about the effectiveness of green infrastructure to create green jobs, achieve improved water quality and stabilize neighborhoods experiencing the greatest population loss and vacancy rate.

“Green infrastructure provides a host of social, economic and environmental benefits by improving neighborhoods and increasing property values, while at the same time providing green jobs and preventing water pollution,” says consortium participant Lauren Riga, director of green urbanism and environmental affairs for the city of Gary, Ind. “Incorporating green infrastructure on vacant properties can be part of Gary’s revitalization efforts and advance broader green urbanism and sustainability objectives.”

To continue their efforts to turn vacant, blighted spaces into vibrant, productive land, representatives from Cleveland Botanical Garden’s consortium will continue their discussions to begin projects in 2013.

“Considering the growing concern surrounding combined sewer overflow in increasingly vacant communities under Consent Decree, discussions like this allow for Toledo, Ohio, and other cities to share their methodologies,” says George Robinson II, deputy director of Toledo Waterways Initiative. “Grey infrastructure utilization alongside green components has potential for combined optimal results for the environment and ratepayers alike.”

Representatives from Cleveland Botanical Garden’s consortium will present key findings from their 1-year investigation at the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition meeting Sept. 11-15 in Cleveland. In October, they will present a final report to the Great Lakes Protection Fund, which has funded the collaborative research involving vacant land and green infrastructure.

Organizations participating in the July 31 – August 1 conference include:

Biohabitats, Inc. (Cleveland)
Buffalo Neighborhood StabilizationCo.
Building Neighborhood Power (Flint)
Center for Neighborhood Technology (Chicago)
City of Flint
City of Gary
City of Milwaukee
City of Toledo
Cleveland Botanical Garden
Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District (Cleveland)
Data Driven Detroit
Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept
Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc. (Chicago/Detroit)
Gary Storm Water Management District
Genesee County Land Bank (Flint)
Great Lakes Commission (Chicago)
Greeley and Hansen LLC (Chicago)
Groundwork Buffalo
Indiana University Northwest (Gary)
Lower Eastside Action Plan (Detroit)
Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center (Toledo)
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
National Wildlife Federation
NeighborSpace (Chicago)
People United for Sustainable Housing (Buffalo)
Rochester Institute of Technology
Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (Detroit)
Stoss Landscape Urbanism
The Greening of Detroit
The Pennsylvania State University
U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur
Urban Ecology Center
Urban Sustain (Chicago)
US EPA
Wayne State University (Detroit)


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Cleveland Botanical Garden receives public support through Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

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