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Power of Placemaking – What Vacancy Victories from Massachusetts, New York, and California Taught Us

February 18, 2020

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From increased fire outbreaks to elevated safety concerns, there’s no secret property vacancy can weigh down a community. But, how can communities lift themselves up? What are the keys to turning a vacant lot or building into an asset?

The answers may vary for each community (and we’re here if you need help with your block), but here are three lessons we learned from Georgia, New York, and California – where resident creativity turned vacancy into an opportunity:

Oakland, California – Art is One of the Most Powerful Problem Responses

Photo Credit: Kiss My Black Arts Collective

The enjoyment from an arts project can be more than aesthetic. Oakland, California’s Design Dash creative placemaking efforts prove that each year. From mural sites and events that help break up a food desert, to improvement efforts that helped combat pedestrian traffic injuries, they exemplify the power of art to help answer community challenges.


Sullivan, New York – Smaller Wins are the Way to Larger Investments

Photo Credit: Freda Eisenberg

In Sullivan County New York, three organizations partnered to make a big difference by turning a parking lot into a beach. While there are plenty of cool parts of the effort, from creating food tastings to meeting spaces, every community should take notice of (and celebrate their own) “smaller wins.”

In the words of Freda Eisenberg, Sullivan County Planning Commissioner, “[It] was a low-cost way of making something happen while we keep searching for the more than $3 million it will take to achieve the placemaking vision of a parking lot transformed to community commons.”

There’s no neighborhood effort that’s too small to make a difference.


Lynn, Massachusetts – Your Project Could Put Your Neighborhood on “the Map”

Photo Credit: Creative Collective

What began as an effort to improve lighting, turned into national recognition and revitalizing wins for the city of Lynn, Massachusetts.

“Much of the Boston-based media only comes to Lynn when something bad happens,” said Al Wilson, Founder, and CEO of Beyond Walls. “If we could get more people walking around downtown, perceptions of it being unsafe would decrease. We’d see an increase in spending in local businesses and residents would have a greater sense of community pride.”

The City’s 2016 efforts didn’t only help improve the downtown experience, but earned it big recognition at the  Gateway City Innovation Awards and HUBWeek’s Impactful Public Art Award.


Share Your Story & More Revitalization Lessons

Is there a winning revitalized lot or project in your neighborhood? Share them with us through #LoveThatLot, where you can earn national attention for your neighborhood.

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