As it drizzled on Friday morning, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the winners of the Lots of Possibility contest at the corner of Portland Avenue and 17th Street. The site will soon be home to a garden that will grow dye-producing plants for the Anchal project.
The Lots of Possibility contest invited people and organizations to submit proposals to re-imagine a vacant or abandoned property as as a productive and inspiring asset to the community. Proposals could be for permanent or interim projects, and two of each would be chosen.
Mayor Fischer said the contest was a way to get the community involved in solving the problem of vacant and abandoned property and that the contest tapped into the “entrepreneurial spirit of our citizens.”
The mayor said the challenge of vacant and abandoned properties is one that effects cities across America. But in recent years, the number of vacant and abandoned properties has dropped from around 6,000 to around 5,000.
Representatives of all four winning teams were on hand at the announcement and briefly thanked the mayor and their supporters.
The VAPSTAT website provides the following descriptions of the winning proposals:
The winners of the Permanent Use Category, who will receive ownership of a vacant lot and $15,000 in implementation funds are:
• dyeScape (Colleen Clines and Maggie Clines – Anchal Project, Louis Johnson): The urban textile landscape is a network of small-scale gardens that cultivate plant fibers, animal fibers and dye plants for the purpose of natural textile production. This site will demonstrate the potential of plants to provide natural color to materials, teach residents environmental sustainability and entrepreneurship and support local textile production.
• Graduating to Homeownership (Habitat for Humanity Metro Louisville and Family Scholar House – Rob Locke, Lisa Echsner, Jackie Isaacs, Harvetta Ray): Using Habitat for Humanity’s volunteer construction model, a new energy efficient home will be constructed near the Parkland Family Scholar House (FSH) for a new graduate of the program. The FSH seeks to end the generational cycle of poverty through education, and by staying in the neighborhood, the graduate can continue to benefit from and provide benefit to the FSH community. A new program will also be created to provide financial counseling and application assistance to enable more families to qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home.
The winners of the Interim Use Category, who will receive one-year renewable licenses to a vacant lot and $4,000 in implementation funds are:
• Lots of Lavender (Christopher Head and oSha Shireman): Redirected rainwater, vegetated bioswales and French drains will be used to support lavender herb beds for decoration, potpourri and oil of lavender production. This pilot project also seeks to demonstrate the potential of low maintenance/low mow plantings for vacant lots across the city. This project will be conducted in partnership with the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association and I.D.E.A.S. 40203.
• Meditation Labyrinth (West Louisville Women’s Coalition – Ramona Lindsey, Elmer Lucille Allen, Chenoweth Allen, Wilma Bethel, Robin Bray, Ellyn Crutcher, Beth Henson, Gwendolyn Kelly, Pam Newman, Tyra Oldham and Harvetta Ray): This project will create an intergenerational open space for art and creativity. Community arts outreach will be paired with a walking path made out of personalized clay pavers and chalkboard walls made from recycled wood pallets and natural seating.
Fischer called the program a great example of “civic entrepreneurship and civic innovation.” He said he hopes it will have a “ripple effect and inspire creative and innovative uses for other vacant properties.”
Jeana Dunlap, assistant director at Metro Community Services & Revitalization, thanked the 105 people who submitted proposals and said that naming the four winners was “just the beginning.” She reminded the audience that there is an aggressive new pricing policy for landbank properties and that depending on the use, a property can cost as little as a dollar.
More information about the availability of and uses for vacant and abandoned properties is available on the VAPSTAT website.