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Madison Gharghoury, Development Associate and Special Assistant to the President/CEO

Preliminary Assessment of Vacant Properties in Lockport, NY

Strategies for Coordinating with the Niagara Orleans Regional Land Improvement Corporation

Published: June 2024


This Memorandum summarizes key takeaways, observations, and recommendations for the City of Lockport (City) to consider, alongside its partner, the Niagara Orleans Regional Land Improvement Corporation (NORLIC), in their efforts to equitably, efficiently, and effectively address vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated (VAD) properties. 

Last fall, the Center for Community Progress (Community Progress) had the opportunity to select two General Motors (GM) communities outside of Michigan and provide no-cost technical assistance with the expressed goal to help improve the community’s approach to addressing VAD properties. These two technical assistance scholarships were made possible with generous support from GM. Community Progress initiated conversations with NORLIC about this opportunity, and there was mutual agreement that a focused engagement on increasing communication and collaboration between NORLIC and the City of Lockport could generate impactful outcomes for the residents of a community with a rich GM legacy. The proposal had strong support from Lockport officials, and the project launched in February, 2024 with an anticipated completion date of May 31, 2024. 

Community Progress is the only national nonprofit dedicated to tackling vacant properties and driving change by uncovering and disrupting the unjust systems that perpetuate entrenched vacancy and property deterioration. Since 2010, our team of experts has provided urban, suburban, and rural communities battling systemic vacancy with the policies, tools, and resources needed to address the full cycle of property revitalization. Community Progress also administers the National Land Bank Network, a member-based community of practice with over 300 land banks nationally, and has provided technical support and guidance to the New York State Land Bank Association for nearly a decade. 

NORLIC, one of twenty-eight land banks in New York State, is a public entity with unique powers to put VAD properties back to productive use according to community goals. A primary focus of NORLIC is to address the harmful effects of brownfields that plague its member communities and turn them into valuable assets. NORLIC has been able to leverage the county’s successful track record of attracting EPA funding, through the Niagara Brownfields Development Corporation, to advance its work on brownfields. In Lockport alone, NORLIC and the County have supported assessments and/or cleanup activities on nearly 30 properties (See Appendix B for full list of properties). In addition to brownfields, NORLIC also addresses residential and commercial vacant and abandoned properties in neighborhoods. In Lockport, NORLIC was instrumental in addressing a well-known property that became extremely dangerous and a nuisance to the neighborhood after it was damaged by a fire. NORLIC funded and managed the demolition and is working with the adjacent property owner to transfer the resultant vacant lot through its Side Lot Program. 

While these successful partnerships are noteworthy, there was consensus among City leaders that NORLIC could be leveraged in a more strategic manner to address problem properties the City is grappling with and to support longer-term planning and reuse. 

The goal of this engagement was two-fold: 

  1. Conduct a preliminary assessment of the City’s approach to addressing VAD properties and provide observations and recommendations to move toward a more equitable, efficient, and effective approach; and, 
  1. Strengthen the relationships between the City and NORLIC through a coordinated strategy to address VAD properties, including brownfields, in Lockport. 

The engagement was led by national experts at Community Progress that included Tarik Abdelazim and Liz Kozub, both of whom have deep roots in New York State. The assessment included a review of available data, programs, policies, relevant state laws, and was informed by virtual and in-person interviews. A two-day site visit took place May 6th and 7th which included individual and group interviews. 

This memorandum shares key takeaways, observations, and recommendations related to (i) Data Management and Coordination, (ii) Housing and Building Code Enforcement, and (iii) Tax Enforcement. These three systems at the City’s disposal are critical to address the harms imposed by VAD properties and provide the most impactful opportunities to partner with NORLIC.

Published: June 2024


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