Community Revitalization Fellowship

The Center for Community Progress’ Community Revitalization Fellowship is a learning opportunity to help cohorts of grassroots community leaders revitalize neighborhoods that are struggling with serious challenges related to vacancy, abandonment, and disinvestment.

Each year, six resident leaders from three communities (eighteen people in total) are selected as fellows. They participate in learning exchanges in each other’s communities that feature a mix of technical and leadership trainings as well as local neighborhood tours. Fellows also develop strategies or projects to improve vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties in their neighborhoods.

The Community Revitalization Fellowship is designed as an opportunity for participating fellows to:

  • Gain knowledge about neighborhood stabilization and revitalization strategies, tools, and systems
  • Lead a strategic and impactful revitalization strategy or project
  • Build connections with fellows both within and across participating communities
  • Strengthen relationships with local organizations, elected officials, and other local leaders
  • Increase effectiveness of resident-led neighborhood interventions and advocacy

By participating in the program, fellows will be better equipped to advocate for and lead change that improves vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties through creative placemaking in their own neighborhoods. The fellowship will also build the capacity of a key institutional partner in each of the communities to provide ongoing local support to the fellows and their neighborhoods.

Throughout 2022-23 the Community Revitalization Fellowship will focus on helping residents lead community-based efforts to improve vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties specifically through the practice of creative placemaking.

2022-23 CRF Cohorts

Syracuse, New York

In Syracuse, New York, fellows will build upon creative placemaking efforts which highlight the diverse communities and cultures that call the historically redlined communities of the Northside, Southside, and Westside home. Their existing initiatives include the Sankofa District, a stretch of Salina Street that was rebranded by the city in 2015 to pay respect to those displaced from the historically Black 15th Ward, as well as the Salt City Market and Westside Gateway Projects.

The institutional partner for the Syracuse CRF Fellows is the Greater Syracuse Land Bank, which works to return vacant, abandoned, underutilized, and tax-delinquent properties to productive use in ways that support the community’s vision for its future. The land bank acquires and stabilizes properties, markets them to responsible buyers for redevelopment, and assembles larger parcels for long-range redevelopment plans.

The Syracuse fellows are:

  • Patrona Jones‐Rowser
  • Oceanna Fair
  • David Haas
  • Rasheada Caldwell
  • Syeisha Byrd
  • Ed Griffin‐Nolan

Loíza, Puerto Rico

In Loíza, Puerto Rico, fellows have worked to transform a vacant public school into Community Center Emiliano Figueroa Torres, a gathering place for the Torrecilla Baja neighborhood. The former school houses community-led programs focused on passing on Puerto Rican culinary and cultural heritage through distribution of hot meals and by providing educational tutoring to local youth which incorporates local music and dance. Fellows have also organized the creation of murals on the school’s exterior which reflects the neighborhood’s culture and identity.

The fellows will build on existing work in institutional partnership with the Center for Habitat Reconstruction (CRH). CRH is the only 501(c)(3) in Puerto Rico dedicated to leveraging vacant and abandoned properties as assets for building sustainable communities. By executing a model rooted in citizen participation and access to social justice, their interdisciplinary team partners with community-based and nonprofit organizations and other stakeholders to design and facilitate nuisance abatement and land use planning processes.

The Loíza fellows are:

  • Yolanda Pizarro
  • Tanisha Gaspar
  • Maria Carrasquillo
  • Shantille Quiñones
  • Ingrid Pérez
  • Omar Paris

Braddock/East Pittsburgh/North Braddock (BEN), Pennsylvania

In BEN, Pennsylvania; fellows’ work envisions a clean energy future through art and placemaking in communities once known for their role in steel production. These initiatives have worked with local youth to reenvision vacant properties into community gathering spaces and design a new park which utilizes recycled materials. Fellows have also created art installations on vacant land which highlight the need for clean energy in a community with high levels of exposure to air particulate and asthma.

The institutional partner for the BEN fellows is Grounded Strategies. Decades of deindustrialization, suburbanization, white flight, and community divestment led to the proliferation of vacant land in the BEN region, with lasting negative effects concentrated specifically in high poverty areas and predominantly Black neighborhoods. Grounded Strategies serves the underserved communities reclaiming vacant and underutilized land to improve socioeconomic and environmental health. Their specialties include urban planning, public policy, landscape design, permaculture, and sustainable land stewardship advocacy.

The BEN fellows are:

  • Chardae Jone
  • Crystal Jalil
  • Edith Abeyta
  • Fitzhugh Shaw
  • Jona Reyes
  • Natiq Jalil

“The work that happens in these communities results in both local wins and opportunities to help other cities and neighborhoods across the nation.”

Courtney Knox, Vice President and Director of National Leadership and Education at Community Progress.


“What I experienced…connecting with the Gary, Indiana and the Jackson, Mississippi fellows was awesome. I was able to conversate with residents from other cities and found out that we shared similar experiences in our communities. …Within my Newark community where I once saw blight, I now see the possibilities.”

Yolanda Stokes, Newark, NJ 2019 Fellow


Who is on the ideal application team?

The ideal application team is organized by an institutional partner — a community foundation, land bank authority, or any established nonprofit organization with a 501(c)3 designation — that has a DEMONSTRATED COMMITMENT to addressing community and economic development challenges, and that routinely works to ensure that residents are meaningfully engaged in or leading these efforts. The institutional partner must have broad community connections, knowledge of racial equity challenges, and be willing to help strengthen relationships between fellows and local stakeholders.

The ideal application team also includes SIX individual fellows. These should be people from the community who are ACTIVE in revitalization and/or creative placemaking efforts with experience with vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties. Preferably they are involved in these projects outside of their professional work.

Program Highlights

  • Three learning exchanges for fellows in each of the three cohort communities
  • A Virtual Revitalization Workshop for a broad group of stakeholders in each community
  • Opportunity to attend Community Progress’ Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference
  • $10,000 for a creative placemaking project designed by the fellows and $4,000 to support institutional partners’ leadership in the program


Thanks to the generous support from the Oak Foundation, tuition is on us! Travel, lodging, and on-site meals are also included. Fellows will receive a $230 stipend for their participation in each learning exchange. Institutional partners will receive a $4,000 in funding to support their leadership in the program and $10,000 to administer a create placemaking project.

How to Apply

2022-23 Community Revitalization Fellowship Cohorts have been selected.
Check back next year to apply for our 2023-24 fellowship!

Read the Frequently Asked Questions »
Watch the Informational Webinar »