A contextual understanding of vacant land : a Buffalo, NY case study
Sing, Evaine K.
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Many cities in the U.S. are facing a challenge of addressing growing portfolios of vacant lots with limited resources. Increasingly, cities are recognizing that the issue is not going away on its own and interventions to date have not resulted in sustained improvements. Vacant land is a complex issue and is both a cause and symptom of many negative conditions on the ground. But vacant land can also be an opportunity to have positive outcomes; it simply depends on how it is viewed. Currently, the topic of vacant land and lots is an objective one, an understanding simply of the current state and what led us there, rather than the potential that comes with it. Reconceptualizing vacant land as a system may help communities recognize critical intervention points. This research is an inclusive exploration of a contextual understanding of vacant land in real-time. Individual interviews provided data for the development of an initial systems model and collective focus groups further refined that model using a systems mapping technique, the results incorporated into a final system model. The process and its results were evaluated by participants which included who would benefit from using this information to help refine interventions. This research seeks to answer a series of questions about the contextual understanding of vacant land in a specific place at a specific time, ultimately resulting in a collectively creating defining system as well as highlighting the differences in those perspectives as compared to backgrounds and social position of participants. It also pilots a methodology in which cities can re-examine the issue in their own specific political, financial, and capacity- related context as a foundation to future planning. The findings in Buffalo demonstrate the highly personal nature of vacant land and those who are affected by it.