Detroit Vacant Lots Become Stormwater Gardens

Four vacant lots on Detroit’s west side have been given new life as stormwater retention gardens, each capable of corralling up to 300,000 gallons of water below ground per year while creating a beautiful common space for neighbors up above.

Initiated by an interdisciplinary team of University of Michigan students, the project represents a few significant firsts: the first green stormwater infrastructure project to receive investment from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD); the first time that department and the Detroit Land Bank Authority have collaborated. And with their massive capacity and appealing design, the stakeholders are also hoping to prove just how much green infrastructure can do. Click here for the full story.

Blight into Beauty One Chain Link Fence at a Time

The mayor of Imperial Beach, California has made it his mission to clean up neighborhoods by tearing down one rusty chain-link fence at a time. He is partnering with nonprofit organizations, such as one that uses sustainable construction techniques to create affordable homes, community centers, creative gathering spaces and other structures out of trash and recyclables, to develop abandoned sites into useful gathering places for the community. Click here for the full story.

Building a Big Dream on a Tiny Slip of Land

Three years ago, the Cuyahoga Land Bank in Ohio took over a tiny abandoned house on a 35- by 95-foot parcel in Lakewood’s Scenic Park neighborhood.

As the Land Bank razed the 348-square-foot house, cleared the property and laid grass seed, LakewoodAlive, a community-centered non-profit organization focused on maintaining vibrant neighborhoods in Lakewood, took notice. The parcel became part of a beautiful new 2-story home. Click here for the full story.

Vacant Home Tour Changes Conversation around Vacancy

This article provides a more in-depth look at Wilkinsburg, PA’s innovative vacant property tour program. The program tells the story of several vacant homes and businesses, reminding visitors of the rich history of the neighborhood, and inviting participants to view properties as opportunities instead of liabilities. Click here to read the in-depth interview with the project proponents on what it took to pull it off.

Paducah, Kentucky Attracts Artists to Rehab Homes

Artists from all over America started coming in 2000 to buy and restore homes in Lowertown, Paducah, Kentucky’s oldest — and most blighted – neighborhood. The neighborhood is now home to more than 70 artists, thanks to the city’s artist relocation program which was made possible with the help of a locally owned bank that willing to take a chance on this untested idea. Click here for the full story.

“Artists are the kind of folks who see what can be,” Barnett said. “They see potential, and we knew that was what it was going to take when they came in to see the neighborhood in its current condition.”

Former Abandoned Factory Hosts Progressive Art Show

The Corbin Building in Westmoreland in Huntington, WV was a former garment factory which has transformed into a playground for the arts scene, now dubbed the West Edge Factory. Recently the site hosted the second Culture Storm art show with around 20 local artists setting up on the old wooden floor.

“It’s progressive, and that’s the best thing I can say about it for Huntington,” said Zac White, one of the three main organizers and a vendor himself. Click here for the full story and for more photos.

Homesteading Builds Momentum as a Way to Save Neighborhoods

Community homesteading programs encourage individuals and families to purchase, renovate, and reside in vacant and dilapidated homes by offering a financial incentive (e.g. loan, grant, tax break, or other monetary benefit). Potential benefits include:

  • Rehabilitation of vacant and dilapidated homes;
  • Rebuilding the tax base;
  • Economic diversification through sector development;
  • Substantial return on investment.

West Virginia delegates introduced a bill to create a homesteading pilot program during the 2016 legislative session. While the bill died, there’s a possibility it could be reintroduced next year, and interest is certainly building. This article highlights different examples of the forms a successful homesteading program can take from around the region. Click here for the full story.

Kingwood Receives WVDEP ‘Land Revitalization’ Award

In May, the City of Kingwood received the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Land Revitalization award for their robust recycling program. When the program was initiated, operations were constricted to the City Sanitary Sewer bed area. Program participation quickly increased, and operations outgrew the existing space. City leaders recognized a local abandoned warehouse to purchase as a dedicated recycling program building.

The Penmarva building, which previously housed a grocery wholesale company, was dilapidated and had been neglected since 2007. But the size and location made it ideal for recycling operations.

The new Kingwood Recycling Center, which is more accessible and customer friendly, opened for business in February 2016. Congratulations to the city of Kingwood! Click here for more information.

Request for Proposals: FY 2017 Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grant

ANNOUNCING New Request for Proposals- FY 2017 Brownfields Area-Wide Planning (BF AWP) Grant Guidelines
EPA is announcing the availability of funding to eligible entities who wish to develop an area-wide plan for brownfields assessment, cleanup, and subsequent reuse. This funding is for research and/or technical assistance activities directed to one or more brownfield site(s) located in a specific area (such as a neighborhood, downtown or business district, local commercial corridor, community waterfront or city blocks). Each project funded under this grant must result in an area-wide plan which includes specific plan implementation strategies for assessing, cleaning up, and reusing the brownfields site(s) as well as related brownfields and project area revitalization strategies. EPA anticipates awarding approximately 20 projects in total, funded at up to $200,000 each. The proposal submission deadline is August 10, 2016.

Please note that applicants who received a BF AWP grant from EPA in Fiscal Year 2010, 2013 or 2015 (FY10 or FY13 or FY 15) are generally not eligible to apply under this competition. EPA is making an exception for POWER+ (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) applicants. The POWER+ Initiative is an Administration priority that started in FY16 and continues through FY17. A POWER+ applicant must propose one or more eligible catalyst, high priority brownfield site(s) within the same brownfields project area as a coal-fired power plant that has recently closed (2008 or later) or is scheduled to close.

Link to BF AWP grant funding opportunity on www.grants.gov here.