Urban greening initiatives have rapidly become vital strategies for urban regeneration initiatives, such as Detroit Future City and Reimagining a More Sustainable Cleveland. Part of the challenge for practitioners and researchers is how best to determine and document how, when, and where urban greening can be most effective and equitable.
With a surplus of vacant land and abandoned buildings, dozens of older industrial cities are now transforming hundreds of vacant lots into emerging networks of community gardens, urban farms and forests, pocket parks, and green infrastructure projects for absorbing stormwater and vehicle emissions.
Starting with Schilling and Logan’s seminal article “Greening the Rust Belt,” VPR Network has been at the forefront of documenting the urban greening work of public, private and nonprofit entities that can provide distressed communities with immediate and wide-ranging health, economic, social and civic benefits. In 2013, through the Center for Community Progress, Schilling co-authored a yearlong policy study—Strategic Lessons in Sustainable Community Building—that examines a national network of community-based organizations (e.g. Groundwork USA) that engage residents and youth in urban greening and restoring distressed waterways. In May 2015, the VPR Network released its first research translation brief—Greening Legacy Cities—that synthesizes recent research on the multiple benefits derived from initiatives to green vacant and abandoned properties.
Building on this body of work, VPR Network has convened a special working group on urban greening in legacy cities as a vehicle for cross-city and cross-sector collaboration. VPR Network will document the working group’s innovative ideas and problem-solving as well as build consensus around a shared agenda for research and policy action. The working group includes representatives from planning, design, and policy programs, national and regional non-governmental organizations, local government practitioners, and community-based organizations primarily from the Northeast and Midwest. Beyond the working group, VPR Network will also explore urban greening initiatives and sustainability planning and policies within the special context of legacy cities.