Vacant lots = creative opportunity (updated)

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .




Thanks for the introduction Diana! To reply to your question regarding abandoned buildings in Pittsburgh:

I think there are interesting opportunities not just with vacant buildings in the city, but with vacant lots.

There are about 17,000 vacant lots in the city of Pittsburgh and the number is on the rise. The number is a direct result of the city’s population decline since the 1980‘s and an inability to maintain infrastructure without the population and tax base that once supported it.

It would be exciting to see the idea of temporary installations applied to these properties either on an individual parcel-by-parcel level or at a more sweeping and broad scale (such as in development corridors).

Installations could happen piecemeal or all at once. For example, on one designated evening or weekend day, events and strategic installations could be launched all around the city on vacant lots. This could happen over a month’s time or intensively during a week.

An installation could be physical or performance –based, and include music, dance or theater. Artists could pair with scientists and install collaborative sculpture or a garden. A community might be inspired to engage in a wildflower tilling or plant the land to act as a stormwater sponge.

The ultimate goal would be to creatively draw attention to the abandoned state and context of these lots and to start a new dialogue about the possibilities while sparking the imagination.

Here's a piece in The Atlantic Cities that features such an idea. 

Vacant lots are largely unrecognized in most cities and are mostly associated with blight, but they have great potential. In many cities around the country, vacant properties are returned to nature or turned over to urban farming, community gardens, or spaces for gathering on a more permanent basis.

In Pittsburgh, organizations like Grow Pittsburgh and GTECH Strategies are already working hard to reclaim and energize these kinds of sites as part of their long-term vision for the city.

Pittsburgh is rich with artistic and creative minds. I suspect something like the above could easily happen (if it hasn’t already)! 


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