Save the Rain Vacant Lot Program

First Harvest!
701 Oswego St. Site Completion!
The site shown here is completed and awaiting use!
701 Oswego St. Under Construction
Soil amendment was done on site to improve growing conditions of trees and shrubs for production of fruits.
701 Oswego St. Before the Vacant Lot Program
The site burdened the neighborhood with poor aesthetics, low property value, and poor sidewalk condition.

Much progress has been made on the Vacant Lot Program (VLP) since our last article. ASLF staff has designed a long list of candidate projects to be implemented this year and has developed much more of the program.

To briefly recap the VLP from our last newsletter, the City of Syracuse (City) is facing the challenge of more than 3,000 vacant lots within its city limits. These vacant parcels cause concerns about liability, safety, heavy littering, maintenance costs, and unpleasing aesthetics. Onondaga County has developed methods that will use green infrastructure (GI) on these lots to improve stormwater capture under the “Save the Rain” (STR) program. It is projected that, in the summer of 2012, eight to twelve lots will have GI added to the landscape, with the same number projected to be implemented each year until 2018, covering 20 acres for a total capture of nine million gallons per year. ASLF has been directed by the County to develop a vacant lot program that will focus on stormwater management while incorporating other benefits for the surrounding community.

New uses for vacant lots include: urban orchards or fruit gardens, vegetable gardens, ornamental gardens, and urban forests or tree plantings. While all sites have their individual qualities, all share the benefits of but are not limited to encouragement of economic development, aesthetic improvement, enhanced emotional wellness, increased habitat for urban wildlife, opportunity for green job creation and, of course, reduced stormwater in the sanitary sewer system.

The City Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has been working closely with ASLF to both plan improvements for the VLP parcels and revise the City’s wise management of scarce resources in the future. The City currently is finalizing its draft of the 2040 Comprehensive Development Plan which will include many programs involving deconstruction, open space management, and others that apply directly to the VLP, while also conserving resources for future generations.

Projects expected to be constructed in the coming months this year include W. Onondaga and Arthur St., 109 Hartson St., and 224-226 Putnam Street. These three projects all include tree planting and rain gardens. Being the first projects constructed, these sites were chosen for having a lesser amount of complexity than the other candidates. Establishment of these projects, to be considered pilots, will allow the STR-VLP development team to recognize strengths and weaknesses of the VLP before more complex projects are constructed. Many of the Autumn candidates will require outreach programs, detailed management, operations guidelines, and so on. Once finalized designs become available you will be able to view them on our website at www.aslf.org.

ASLF continues to develop the VLP program and plan for the coming years of continued VLP projects. While we continue to work on resolving ownership, operations, and management issues, ASLF is just as focused on ensuring the community affected by these projects receives the proper attention. The success of the VLP depends on a large amount of community interaction with, and approval of, the VLP project sites before and after construction.

ASLF staff is currently developing a plan for performing this outreach in the affected communities near the existing and future projects. Partnering with other City, County, and STR consultants will allow us to achieve our desired outcome.