Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer at this morning's press conference. Debbie Fox , director of Louisville EMT behind.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer at this morning’s press conference. Debbie Fox , director of Louisville EMT, behind.

Over the past three years, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says his administration has put a lot of effort behind the very “complicated issues” of vacant and abandoned properties in Louisville. He also says there has been “tremendous focus on innovation” in his term with a great deal of cooperation with the private sector.

The “Lots of Possibility” competition announced at a press conference today marries those two initiatives.

Living next to a vacant or abandoned property can be very frustrating for responsible homeowners or apartment-dwellers, the mayor said during the press conference. There are more than 6400 vacant or abandoned properties in the Louisville Metro and approximately 460 are owned by Metro Government and/or the Landbank Authority Inc.

Lots of Possibility challenges individuals and teams to re-imagine these properties as productive and inspiring assets to their communities. Proposals can be for permanent or interim projects for an eligible Metro-owned property.

For this competition, 250 vacant lots have been made available for consideration. They are of varying sizes, shapes and locations. (A map of the lots is available here. You will have to click through to “Louisville.”)

Map of some of the available properties for Lots of Possibilities.
Map of some of the available properties for Lots of Possibilities.

Two winners will receive $15,000 each for proposals for permanent revitalization of a vacant property and ownership of the lot.

Two more winners will receive $4,000 for proposals for temporary or interim use of a lot plus a one-to-two year land lease.

The contest opens today and runs through Feb. 24. Six finalists will then be asked to present more detailed proposals. Winners will be announced in April.

Mayor Fischer said, “The rules for this competition are simple — be creative and bold!” He said he’s looking for ideas that will “blow the minds of people all over the world.”

According to the entry form, proposals will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Feasibility: Does the individual or team have the resources to carry out the proposal? Is the project achievable from a technical standpoint?
  • Time and Capacity to Implement: Does the individual or team have the time and organizational capacity to implement the proposal? Are we likely to see the project come to fruition in a reasonable timeframe and is there a strong operations and maintenance plan in place?
  • Creativity: Does the project propose innovative uses? Does it inspire, and help people realize the potential of repurposing vacant lots?
  • Community Benefit: Will the project involve and/or benefit the community? Is it likely to be an active place? Is the idea replicable for others?

Mayor Fischer also said that teams must have strong funding plans in place, should the prize money not sufficiently fund the effort.

Julie Chen
Julienne Chen, manager for the Mayor’s Information Delivery Team

Julienne Chen, project manager for Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, said that past ideas for vacant properties have included: goat herding space, outdoor movie theaters, adventure playgrounds and community gardens.

The VAPStat website includes an “inspiration gallery” featuring results from similar initiatives around the country.

The competition is a collaboration between 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 itself is funded by a grant from the Gheens Foundation, according to the mayor.

The Lots of Possibility competition is just one more way the Fischer administration has sought to reduce the number of vacant and abandoned properties. The mayor cited Shine on Shawnee, the recent residential renovations in the Portland neighborhood, and the creation of VAPStat, the “one-stop shop” where citizens can access information and data about abandoned properties as other recent successes.

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14 thoughts on “‘Be creative and bold:’ Mayor Fischer announces ‘Lots of Possibility’ competition targeting vacant lots

  1. Here’s an idea – stop creating the vacant lots, and for those that he (and previous administrations have made), they need to be re-inhabited as housing, retail, or whatever was on the site previously.

    This guy really needs a clue.

  2. I imagine many of these lots used to contain buildings, but were condemned and cleared. Also, I imagine many of the lots have been available for purchase for a long time, with no takers. In the vein of doing something productive with them, I see nothing wrong with this competition.

  3. Well it certainly beats government actually getting out there and doing the work……250 lots and three winners of a competition ? That leaves ….well, you do the math. I tried VapStat. It didn’t tell me anything about a property I wanted to acquire.
    It’s great to sit in offices and dream up reinventing the wheel, like painting boards on vacant houses. Brought that project here under Abramson from Chicago. Twelve years ago.
    Meanwhile wholesale clearance abounds in downtown Louisville and yahoo look what we can do, Louisville. Bucket, meet drop in a…….

  4. As you seem to attest, there’s already a program for acquiring vacant lands for special uses. If this competition makes more people aware of that program, all the better.

  5. What program ?! We have had plans for years gathering dust….you know, spiral bound vision. Lots Of Possibility……but not much action ……
    You cannot cure cancer with a photo op and an aspirin.
    And the only land available for special uses is land owned by big development. It’s called Whoyaknownotwhat.

  6. A little disappointed to see the overwhelming majority of the lots located in the West End. Having served previously on the Vacant Property Review Commission, I understand that’s where many of the lots are located, but there are quite a few down in Valley Station as well. Wish those could have been considered.

  7. Are you basing that on the map we printed or have you been to the map itself? We only printed a small piece of it. Remember, these have to be Metro-owned properties. No privately-owned vacant lots on the list.

  8. And to reiterate, these are metro-owned properties only. There are 6400 vacant and abandoned properties in the city. This addresses only metro-owned.

  9. Four winners. But it’s more than just four “winners”– it’s four great new projects that will enhance the city. And remember, one of the judging criteria is “is it replicable”? Meaning can we use this idea to better other vacant lots in the city? I don’t argue that this isn’t a PR move, but as Metro Issue says, it’s great to bring public attention. Also, if you’ve had problems using VAPStat, I’d call them. They are EAGER to get people to use the site and I am sure would be happy to be told of glitches.

  10. It’s remarkable that Louisville has still yet to totally overcome its Great Flood. Beforehand, the West was equal to the east. Since the flood, all have migrated east, way past what was then a small city called St. Matthews.

  11. The mayor is responsible for creating the vacant lots? So easy to type a vague criticism with absolutely no ideas or knowledge of the properties or the individual circumstances surrounding them. Not sure the mayor is the one who needs a clue here.

  12. Uh yes he is where the buck stops. And the city is indeed pretty clueless about retention of vacant houses, but damn good at clearing out quite a number that could’ve been saved. I’ve surveyed hundreds of them over the years. Nobody with any true understanding of this work goes out and classifies them – they end up on endless meaningless lists and without warning they disappear. Just doing their daily job of clearance……
    It’s like having a quality animal shelter that’s no kill. He cannot achieve it for animals and he cannot git er done when it comes to housing. They didn’t change the devastation of Katrina with a cute contest to fill a couple of lots.
    Go to 18th and Main and witness an entire leveled city block that’s been a pile of rubble for four years without being properly cleared. It’s a hazard zone and hizzoners big dudes think that’s just way okay. Welcome to Portland, indeed.

  13. Really? You wave the Pom poms and pass the Kool Aid. We did model block programs in the 70’s.
    I’m not knocking good ideas. I didn’t sit in my office for almost 30 years – I spent them in the hood and on the street. So I do have a clue. I’ve also signed hundreds and hundreds of death warrants for perfectly good houses that by circumstance and zip code only landed in a dumpster. As long as housing is being developed and over developed in 402elsewhere, nothing much will change.

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