SPARC – Seeding Prosperity And Revitalizing Corridors – Convening Community 

The Overview

Like many urban areas, the City of Pittsburgh has a substantial vacant lot problem afflicting its neighborhoods. Recent data sources indicate that approximately 20,000 vacant lots exist, accounting for thousands of acres and 15% of the City’s useable land. Public agencies collectively spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to maintain vacant land in Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods, and this covers only basic maintenance activities such as clearing brush and debris, mowing grass, and removing snow in the winter. The challenge Pittsburgh is facing: How can the city reduce the number of vacant lots, decreasing overall acreage, while employing economically feasible and environmentally responsible green strategies to create viable redevelopment opportunities in communities? 

The Opportunity

In January of 2009, GTECH convened a brainstorming session with several of Pittsburgh’s most active environmental groups working in several communities throughout the region: the Student Conservation Association (SCA), the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC), Penn State Cooperative Extension (PSU), and Grow Pittsburgh in an effort to collaboratively answer the challenges of Pittsburgh’s vacant lot problem. 
This group saw the need to partner with community-based organizations to assist with coordinated planning efforts to implement widespread greening projects targeting vacant land within large-scale corridors. This effort would allow for a menu of green strategies to be developed and implemented, a sharing of project resources, and a host of technical expertise provided to the community. This collaborative effort would allow for wider impact, rather than scattered one-site based projects usually implemented in communities. 

The project, named SPARC, short for Seeding Prosperity And Revitalizing Corridors, was designed to:  

The SPARC collaborative is funded by the generous support of the Pittsburgh Foundation. In the Fall of 2009, the SPARC collaborative is in its planning stages, and is working toward a pilot project for Spring of 2010. During this planning phase, SPARC has engaged a Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College Systems team to provide research and analysis for policy implications, project implementation, impact analysis, and key metric evaluation.