Vacant lots – It’s time to put good land to better use

Vacant lots – It’s time to put good land to better use

At EnSite, we’re constantly thinking about land use. Our daily work involves helping property owners, developers, municipalities and others make efficient use of land. We are always excited to hear about new land use approaches in dense urban centers, where vacancy effects efficiency. The more recent Large Lot Program in Chicago, spurs redevelopment of blighted areas within the city by selling vacant lots to neighborhood residents. By leveraging properties which were acquired through tax and property liens, the city can sell vacant lots for prices as low as $1. With specific criteria in place, the city is able to offer the heavily discounted prices. The converted vacancies contribute to the restoration of a vibrant and livable neighborhood. By making new ownership opportunities available to Chicagoans, the city is supporting place-making and increasing cultural value.

The program requires buyers to own property on the same block, and buyers must be current on property taxes and all other payments to the city, like water bills and parking tickets. The unmistakable goal is to provide local citizens with the ability to take greater ownership of their communities. Many of the vacant lots have invited “public urination, drug activity, prostitution, illegal parking, and dumping,” according to researchers. Now, neighbors are using the extra land to build gardens and outdoor gathering spaces for family and friends.

A study by the University of Illinois College of Applied Health Science revealed that perhaps the greatest impact of the program is on the social fabric of the neighborhoods. The beautification of the lots and creation of green space helped residents have a greater sense of pride in themselves and each other. “We’re not just bottom-feeders who live here,” one resident told researchers.

This program is an example of how both large and small cities can use vacant space to encourage healthy development and support distinct neighborhoods. As we evaluate our own community, we wonder how a program like this might be tailored for Southwest Florida. If land isn’t converted into ownership, can it’s use be maximized in other ways?

Are you curious to see which properties that are government-owned? Take a look below and start a discussion on how we can better promote self-ownership and beneficial land-use in our backyard.

Lee County Owned Property

City of Fort Myers  Housing and Real Estate Division

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