Vacant Lot Toolkit

One of the legacies of Pittsburgh’s economic shift is a large amount and wide variety of vacant and distressed property. The reversion and accumulation of properties coming under public responsibility has placed an enormous burden on the City while contributing no taxes to pay for public services. The estimated cost of maintaining these properties in 2011 totaled $20,457,155. Through the City’s Open Space Plan, it was determined that the City find suitable uses for these lands.

Asakura Robinson was engaged by the Department of City planning to review the existing programs and policies relating to vacant land disposition, develop policy recommendations to encourage more reuse of City owned vacant properties for edible, flower and rain gardens, and to develop a toolkit to provide greater access to these programs to community members and organizations. The resulting Adopt-a-Lot Program passed City Council in November of 2015.

The accompanying  Vacant Lot Toolkit (VLTK) – a resource guide for residents that compiles the goals, policies, processes, procedures, and guidelines allowing residents to build temporary edible, flower, and rain gardens through the Adopt-A-Lot Program – Is available on the City website and will also be made available in a print version to local organizations and at public libraries.  The toolkit was created in part through an Advisory Committee consisting of various City departments and authorities as well as non-profit partners, including Grow Pittsburgh, GTECH, Penn State Center, Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Tree Pittsburgh, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.  Useful for projects on both public and private land, the toolkit clearly defines the process to access the nearly 7,200 City-owned vacant lots for food, flower, and/or rain gardens.

Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Scale: 55 Square Miles
Client: City of Pittsburgh Department of City Planning
Sub-Consultants: Brean Associates

Here’s a link to the City of Pittsburgh’s Program Website.

The Vacant Lot Toolkit was awarded a Planning Excellence Award for Best Practices from the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Planning Association in 2017.


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