The Bruner Loeb Forum: My Takeways

By: Sara Innamorato

Recently, GTECH was invited to attend the Bruner Loeb Forum in Detroit for two days of discussion on vacancy and the associated issues currently being addressed in our nation’s legacy cities. Designers, government officials, forward thinkers, funders and nonprofit leaders participated in a series of neighborhood tours, panel discussions, facilitated small group sessions and presentations. As the Director of ReClaim, I was interested in unearthing some lessons that other cities can teach Pittsburgh when it comes to issues of vacant land.

Here are our my two takeaways:

Local Activation Brings More Stewardship

Michael Fleming and Cleveland’s St. Superior Development Corporation are making strides, promoting new ideas in their community.  I particularly liked the idea of using sheep to maintain vacant lots (yes, you read correctly, sheep). In addition, Pop-up storefronts activate the neighborhood’s Main Street by inviting residents to take up shop.  This not only creates a sense of community, but encourages dollars to stay local. I recommend checking out their website for more unique ideas.

Regulatory Reform Must Align with Innovation

As part of Detroit Future City, suggests new land use production frameworks are only viable if experimentation is incorporated into city legislation and policy.  This strategic framework looks at the system of vacant land and how land use planning can clean soils, prevent  stormwater overflow events, create new workforce development opportunities and entrepreneurial markets.  These ideas can only come to fruition if the decision makers enable them to happen.  Changes in zoning, site access, and funding sources are key components in making the change that Detroit and Pittsburgh need.

Elections were held last Tuesday in Pittsburgh, and it’s time to work with our government entities to streamline access to vacant land and fuel the creative ideas residents have.  Not every idea will succeed, but with over 27,000 vacant parcels in the city, there is no harm in trying something new.  In 2014, we have some pretty unique things going on that we are excited about; we will be  growing hops for a second season and using the invasive Japanese Knotweed to make paper and trial its feasibility as a feedstock for biochar.

What are some ideas that you have for activating vacant land in Pittsburgh?  Tell us below!

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