With the 7th Annual Land Bank Conference just a few short days away, we are looking forward to the many breakout sessions, mobile workshops and training workshops that will be offered. We asked five of our staff members to answer the question: What session are you most looking forward to at the conference? Read below to see what sessions they are excited about.
Amy Hovey, Interim President
Session: Working Outside the Box: Land Banking Outside of Common County Models or in the Absence of Land Bank Legislation
Having had the opportunity to work with land banks across the country and seeing many different models, I am most excited to attend the breakout session “Working Outside the Box: Land Banking Outside of Common County Models or in the Absence of Land Bank Legislation.” I am always inspired by community leaders who feel so strongly about finding new solutions to address blight and vacancy that they are willing to venture into unchartered grounds. They challenge their communities to think outside the box and find creative ways to use land banking tools without the support of legislative framework.
While most of the land banks across the country are working at the county level or in larger metropolitan areas – this session shows how two land banks operate in smaller municipalities, it will dive into the politics involved in their creation, the model of operation and how they fund the organization. This session verifies the case that land banking can work everywhere – the model may be different and inventory may be at a smaller scale but the impact of land banks is just as important.
Jennifer Leonard, Vice President and Director of Advocacy and Outreach
Session: Using Green Space to Rebuild Communities
There’s so much I’m looking forward to during our upcoming Land Bank conference – the time to catch up with colleagues I haven’t seen in a while, the chance to get to know new people that are rolling out land reuse efforts in new and exciting ways, the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge ideas and strategies…the list goes on. When it comes to the program, there’s a lot to choose from. But for me, what brings together all of this are the mobile workshops. In participating in these off-site adventures, you not only hear about some of Kalamazoo’s exciting strategies and programs, but also get to experience the results – walking through brownfield developments, historic properties, and gardens; you get to have a dialogue with a variety of people leading the initiatives and hear from them about the challenges and the successes; and you have plenty of time to talk with your fellow workshop participants to hear about their experiences. So, while I’m not sure where I’ll be during the rest of the conference, you can count on me to be on time to claim my seat for the “Using Green Space to Rebuild Communities” workshop on Tuesday morning. I hope to see you there!
Courtney Knox, Program Officer – Capacity Building
Session: The Rental Option: Strategies for Effective Scattered Site Rental Management
Many of the land banks I work with are looking for new interim use strategies. “The Rental Option: Strategies for Effective Scattered Site Rental Management” is a session I would recommend to any land bank staff or board member. This session offers insight on ways to return vacant properties to productive use, supply quality and affordable housing options, and stabilize neighborhoods. And in Michigan, rental programs are utilized as a strategy to keep residents and tenants in their property at the time of tax foreclosure.
While complex and challenging, managing rentals is a great way to fulfill an unmet need in your community. In many markets, homes are slow to sell and a rental program can offer you an interim strategy until the market picks back up. I am looking forward to hearing the speakers lay out their experiences and help paint a picture of how a rental program may look in your land bank.
Michael Freeman, Program Director – Capacity Building
Session: Repurposing and Redeveloping Automotive Manufacturing and Other Challenging Industrial Sites
At this year’s land bank conference in Kalamazoo, I am looking forward to attending the breakout session, “Repurposing and Redeveloping Automotive Manufacturing and Other Challenging Industrial Sites.” As a resident of a Michigan community that maintains a significant number of former industrial properties, that currently sit idle as vacant Brownfield sites, I am excited at the prospect of land banks as partners to support their ultimate redevelopment. Across Michigan, and nationally, these properties cause serious legacy issues that communities are forced to deal with when industrial sites are vacant, shuttered, and essentially abandoned, including the loss of jobs and tax base, and the potential for blight and subsequent loss of property values in the surrounding areas. Furthermore, site contamination on many of these parcels may limit their re-use for economic purposes, and may ultimately cause hazards to surrounding ecosystems, habitation and human life. The example that will be explored in this session is what I find the most inspiring; a phyto-remediation demonstration project on a large piece of contaminated property that will grow into a community asset, help to clean the site, and contribute to community residents for many years to come.
Payton Heins, Program Officer
Session: Building Effective Land Banks Through Community Engagement
In a time of shrinking resources and overwhelming abandonment, cities are often forced to make some difficult decisions about where to focus revitalization efforts, with the residents on the ground having the most to lose and the most to gain from these decisions. For these reasons, I find the session, “Building Effective Land Banks Through Community Engagement” particularly important to discussions surrounding land banking. I spent a year studying the topic of citizen engagement for land use planning in Detroit and also worked with many residents and local leaders throughout the city. Time and time again, I saw how much progress can be made when residents are central to the efforts. I was introduced to the remarkable work of Khalil Ligon and the lower eastside – tapping into the local knowledge of Detroit residents and empowering them with technical planning skills to take action in their neighborhoods. Each of the speakers in this session brings his or her unique experiences in cities with challenging histories and staggering problems of vacancy and abandonment. I’m excited to learn more from Khalil and to hear from the others about the engagement strategies they’ve tried and tested in Flint and Youngstown. Their work truly is extraordinary!