How to gain Community Support for your Vacant Land Project Idea
By: Brittany Schrenker
The key for your community project’s success, is getting the the community’s support.
So you’ve checked out Lots to Love, found a vacant lot in need of some love and have the perfect idea for the space – now what? Well, the first step to getting your idea off the ground is building a community around it.
1. Make a plan
Develop a plan with as much detail as you can. Where is the proposed site? What do you plan on doing with it? What tools and materials will you need? How will your project impact the neighborhood? The more information that you have to present, the better your community will be able to understand your project.
Connecting with neighbors and/or any neighborhood-based organizations at the beginning can help ensure long-term success. You can brainstorm ideas and figure out what an impactful, feasible project for your neighborhood could be. Sites like Facebook and Nextdoor are good resources for connecting with people in your community digitally, but you should also make sure to put up flyers to inform anyone who may not rely on the Internet for information. Word of mouth is valuable too, creating opportunities for early collaboration with other stakeholders in the community.
Tip: Canva is a free online design platform that allows users to make beautiful posters easily!
2. Meet with your neighbors
Hold a meeting with community members to introduce them to your idea. You can organize a meeting on your own at a local park or business. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will let you use a conference room free of charge as long as the meeting is open to the public. (Find your nearest branch here.)
Your local neighborhood organization may be able to add you to their agenda. Community meetings are usually held once or twice a month. Start here to find information on your neighborhood organization.
TIP: Provide a sign-in sheet at the meeting, so that you can collect contact information from those in attendance. That way you can have ongoing conversations with those interested in the project. It will also make it easier to organize volunteer days and other project related events. Also, it may be helpful to start the planning and design process in the colder months so you can begin your project when the weather begins to warm.
Be open to suggestions from your neighbors. Ask for and listen to their feedback; the idea is to develop a project that betters your community, so you need to hear from the community! Also, you will most likely need your neighbors’ help when it comes time to start working on building out your project.
TIP: A simple way to host a community input session is to have members place green and red dots on the elements/ideas that they like and dislike, like we did with Homewood residents at the Homewood Bible Center.
4. Keep the conversation going
Keep people informed about the project! The planning process will take some time, and the actual project may not start for months after you present to your community (another great reason to plan when it’s too cold to work with the lot). To keep people engaged, send out regular updates about what is happening with your project. This can be done through social media, emails and continuing to attend community meetings.
Keep Growing Detroit has put together a great guide to vacant land, and the various ways you can treat and maintain lots. Still not quite ready to get started with step 1? Get inspired by the lot projects listed here!
When you’re finished, invite anyone and everyone in the community to come see the finished space. It furthers the sense of community and you may just inspire someone else to tackle another vacant lot.
6. Plan for long-term success
Community input is one critical component of the success of a vacant land project. Other key elements of project success include: legal site access, obtaining project materials, and maintenance.
- Legal Access: Lots to Love is a great place to start in your journey to legally obtaining access.
- Project Materials: You’ll need to purchase and/or recycle materials for your site. Some fundraising options include mini-grants and/or crowd-source funding (we love ioby for this). We’re also big fans of recycling materials, because it is free and keeps materials out of landfills. Some recycling ideas can be found on one of our earlier blogs.
- Maintenance: Ensuring that your lot looks good over time will help it maximize it’s benefits to the community.