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Chicago and surrounding municipalities have a significant amount of vacant, abandoned, and otherwise underused land – especially concentrated in the South and West side neighborhoods. One of the main related challenges often is to have a clear understanding of who owns what land, what processes are available for acquisition, and what costs to expect – in short, especially for neighborhood residents, the challenges usually are to have access and clear understanding of the available possibilities for community-led redevelopment.


How might we support communities with tools, engagement or planning resources to successfully redevelop vacant spaces at the neighborhood scale?

The problem is vast. The County County Assessor classified 60,450 parcels in Cook County as "vacant" (property class 1-00) for the 2016 tax year. Of those, 31,064 are in Chicago.

By looking at one of the pilot neighborhoods for the Large Lots program – Englewood – the team will engage with local organizations supporting neighborhood development and land acquisition to understand the main related challenges, and advance the tools and methods that the Large Lots program has been developing.


All this work will be also guided by the prompt: what if there was an Office of Land Management and how would it work at the neighborhood scale?

Spring 2018

Core team:

Steven Vance

Paola Aguirre

Arnold Kasensam

Troy Pieper

Michael Hervey 

Brian Hayes

Seetharam (Ram) Vallabhabeni


Bethany Barrat

Kiara Hardin

Esteban Hernandez

Louisa Zhang

Dave Stevens

Presentation > Mid-Season (April 19, 2018)

By looking at the latest program by the City of Chicago, Large Lots, as a starting point, we researched other existing mechanisms for land acquisition. Large Lots program by far has the most developed and accesible public interface (a digital platform / website) to visualize the inventory of lots in three different categories: available, sale pending, and sold; and to offer some resources to property buyers to learn about potential uses for those parcels, understand regulation requirements, and capital investment costs for improvement. One of this resources is the Activation Guide.

We also borrowed some inspiration from the Field Guide: Working with Lots developed by Detroit Future City's Working with Lots program. This guide expands the palette of potential uses with an environmental and sustainability lens with broad categories of ecological functions for these lots, including cost information and level of expertise required.

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