Vacant to Vibrant | Creating Successful Green Infrastructure Networks

By Sandra L. Albro

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Vacant to Vibrant provides a blueprint for adaptive reuse of vacant land…a refreshing view of not just successful projects, but also of the challenges faced.”

—Michelle Kondo, Scientist, Urban Forests, Human Health, and Environmental Quality, USDA Forest Service

Washington, DC (April 30, 2019)— Vacant lots, so often seen as neighborhood blight, have the potential to be a key element of community revitalization. As manufacturing cities reinvent themselves after decades of lost jobs and population, abundant vacant land resources and interest in green infrastructure are expanding opportunities for community and environmental resilience.

Vacant to Vibrant: Creating Successful Green Infrastructure (Publication Date: April 30, 2019) offers practical insight and inexpensive tools to convert excess vacant land, aging sewer infrastructure, and declining neighborhoods into inspiring and productive community green spaces. The book provides points of comparison between three cities that implemented “stormwater parks,” pocket parks containing storm water control measures.

Sandra Albro, project manager for Vacant to Vibrant, recounts the implementation process, challenges, and successes she and her team faced in piloting the creation of green infrastructure networks in Gary, Indiana; Cleveland, Ohio; and Buffalo, New York. Collectively, lessons and challenges from these three case studies demonstrate how green technology can convert old systems into functional community green spaces.

Albro draws from her experience to highlight the successes and setbacks throughout the planning, design, community engagement, implementation processes that the larger economic and social dynamics within each city helped to influence. Limited municipal maintenance capacity, unfavorable community perception of native plant landscapes, and infrastructure cost considerations are just a few of the challenges Albro addresses in refreshing detail. Throughout, Vacant to Vibrant illustrates the necessity of persistent community engagement and small scale green infrastructure best practices to ensure urban greening projects achieve their stormwater management goals without compromising local culture or heritage.

Mark Lindquist, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Michigan said, “Vacant to Vibrant is a timely contribution to addressing the challenges of repurposing vacant land. The low-cost strategies that also engage stakeholders in the design process offer replicable real-world examples that can have real impact.”

Vacant to Vibrant succeeds in providing landscape architects and other professionals with the tools and knowledge needed to guide their efforts to increase equitable access to urban green space.

Sandra L. Albro is research associate at Holden Forests & Gardens, co-chair for the Cleveland Tree Coalition and is a board member on the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership. She is also the Project Manager for a US EPA Urban Waters project examining the use of soil remediation and green stormwater infrastructure in an intensively treated Cleveland neighborhood.

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