Louisville Looks to Fill Vacant Lots With Design Competition

City Terrain, Midwest, Urbanism
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
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The city's Park Hill district is among the areas with vacant land targeted by the competition. (Courtesy Bing Maps)

The city’s Park Hill district is among the areas with vacant land targeted by the competition. (Courtesy Bing Maps)

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer started 2014 off with a call to citizens: Help the city come up with creative ideas to redevelop vacant land. Local and far-flung designers are invited to re-imagine the land in a new competition. The winners of the Lots of Possibility competition will be awarded a total of $38,000 to put their vision into action.

A screenshot of Louisville's Lots of Possibility map of vacant properties that the city has made available for the design competition.

A screenshot of Louisville’s “Lots of Possibility” map of vacant properties that the city has made available for the design competition.

That money comes from local grant funding. A jury will choose six finalists in each of the competition’s two categories: residential or commercial use; and proposals involving temporary or interim use of vacant lots.

Up to two winners will get $15,000 for long-term residential or commercial development, while up to two more could receive a one-year land lease and $4,000 to implement temporary ideas.

“The rules for this competition are simple—be creative and be bold,” Fischer said in a press release. Louisville recently launched its VAPStat  (Vacant and Abandoned Property Statistics) program to share public information about abandoned properties, foreclosure and redevelopment opportunities.

There are more than 6,000 vacant lots in the area, with a high concentration in western Louisville. A 2013 study estimated about half of the approximately 6,000 vacant properties would “be remedied through normal market forces.” The  Louisville/Jefferson County Landbank Authority and the Urban Renewal Commission own many more sites that they’re working to redevelop.

More than 250 lots (list) have been made available for the Lots of Possibility competition. “[T]he faster the number of VAP properties are reduced,” reads the VAPStat study, “the sooner they become revenue-producing real estate and the sooner they start to have positive effects on their surrounding neighborhoods.”

Sponsoring the competition are the Department of Community Services and Revitalization, Vision Louisville and the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, funded in part by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The competition page lists as inspiration St. Louis’ Sustainable Land Lab, Youngstown, Ohio‘s Lots of Green program, and Flint, Michigan‘s Flatlot competition.

Entries are due Feb. 24. The winners will be announced in April. Entry information here.

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