Citation
Interim landscapes

Material Information

Title:
Interim landscapes community fulfillment on vacant land
Creator:
Bardwell, Susan
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
vii, 259 leaves : illustrations (4 folded forms) ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Land use, Urban ( lcsh )
Community development, Urban -- United States ( lcsh )
Community development, Urban ( fast )
Land use, Urban ( fast )
United States ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves pages 187-194).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Landscape Architecture, College of Architecture and Planning.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Susan Bardwell.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
34820763 ( OCLC )
ocm34820763
Classification:
LD1190.A77 1988m .B37 ( lcc )

Full Text
INTERIM LANDSCAPES
Community Fulfillment on Vacant Land
Susan Bardwell
University of Colorado at Denver School of Architecture and Planning May 1988


INTERIM LANDSCAPES
COMMUNITY FULFILLMENT ON VACANT LAND
A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver School of Architecture and Planning in partial fulfillment of the degree of Master of Landscape Architecture
by
Susan Bardwell May 1988
AL


Thesis Committee Signatures:
Harry L. Garnham, Chairman
date
*7 ' date
// / trv
date


There has to be an interim of death or rejection before there can be renewal and reform....Many of us know the joy and excitement not so much of creating the new as of redeeming what has been neglected (Jackson 102).


CONTENTS
PREFACE........................................................vii
INTRODUCTION: VACANT LAND OF OPPORTUNITY........................1
NEIGHBORHOOD IMAGE AND STABILITY........................2
A COMMUNITY RESOURCE....................................3
RECREATION AND OPEN SPACE OPPORTUNITIES.................3
NATURE IN THE CITY......................................4
"...BECAUSE ITS THERE.................................4
PART 1: THE PROBLEM AND PROMISE OF URBAN VACANT LAND............6
THE WASTELAND CHARACTER.................................7
THE BASIC CAPITAL OF ANY COMMUNITY.....................9
SUCCESS POTENTIAL FOR INTERIM LANDSCAPES...............13
PART 2: NEIGHBORHOOD VACANT LOT INVENTORY AND ANALYSIS..........17
THE LAND...............................................18
THE LANDOWNERS.........................................22
THE RESIDENTS..........................................23
THE LAW...............................................2 5
THE DESIGNER...........................................28
THE SUPPORT............................................29
THE FUTURE.............................................30
IV


PART 3:
INTERIM DESIGN IDEAS INVENTORY AND ANALYSIS
33
WILD LANDS...........................,.................34
ART SPACES.............................................51
GARDENS................................................68
PASSIVE PARKS.........................................103
ACTIVE RECREATION AREAS...............................Ill
SERVICE AREAS.........................................141
INFORMATION LANDSCAPES................................163
PART 4: A VACANT LOT/INTERIM DESIGN SELECTION PROCESS.........169
PART 5: STRATEGIES AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TEMPORARY
LANDSCAPE PROJECTS...................................176
TAKING INITIATIVE.....................................177
MAKING PARTICIPATORY DESIGN WORK................178
FOLLOWING GUIDELINES FOR SURVIVAL.....................180
ACCEPTING IMPERMANENCE................................184
RESOURCES.....................................................186
APPENDIXES....................................................195
A. DEFINITION OF TERMS...............................196
B. NEIGHBORHOOD VACANT LOT INVENTORY AND ANALYSIS
SAMPLE SURVEY FORM...............................197
C. SITE ACCOMMODATION FACTORS........................201
v


APPENDIXES (continued)
D. MAXIMUM SITE ACCOMMODATION MATRIX.................208
E. INTERIM DESIGN REQUIREMENT FACTORS................209
F. MINIMUM INTERIM DESIGN REQUIREMENTS MATRIX........217
G. SITE/DESIGN SUMMARY MATRIX........................218
H. TEMPORARY LANDSCAPES FOR COLE (TLC):
PROFILE OF AN INTERIM LANDSCAPE DESIGN PROGRAM...219
I. COLE NEIGHBORHOOD LOCATION MAP....................220
J. COLE NEIGHBORHOOD VACANT LOTS MAP AND KEY.........221
K. SAMPLE DESIGN SELECTION PROCESS...................231
L. SAMPLE TEMPORARY LANDSCAPE QUESTIONNAIRE..........244
M. TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE RESOURCES....................245
N. DENVER ZONING DISTRICTS AND PROCEDURES............2 50
O. SELECTION OF DENVER CODES GOVERNING VACANT LOTS..258
vi


PREFACE
The notion of interim landscapes implies a new genre of landscape design that is necessarily comprehensive in addressing economic, social, and environmental conditions. Hence, the scope of this thesis is broad in its exploration of other areas of discipline, but specific in its intent to promote the professional landscape design of the land to serve a "useful and enjoyable purpose" (American Society of Landscape Architects Constitution 1975).
Although satisfactory completion of this document marks the end of my degree program, it also is the beginning of my commitment as a landscape architect. Due to the novelty of the subject, much of the discussion herein is speculation based on peripheral readings, previous personal and professional experience, and my "urban intuition," to be tested throughout my career in the community.
Just as the topics discussed are diverse, so are the many people who assisted in this discussion of the temporary landscape potential of urban vacant land. Many thanks to: thesis committee members Harry Garnham (chairman), Thomas Foster, and Frederick Steiner; staff of Bruce Randolph Merchants Civic Association, Denver Urban Gardens, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service, Center for Built Environment Studies, Denver Planning Office, Colorado Open Lands, Division of Wildlife, Denver Urban Forest, Denver Public Works, Denver Department of Parks and Recreation, North Capitol Hill Development Corporation, Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods,
United Bank; and many other professionals and interested individuals for their time, encouragement, and ideas.
vi 1


INTRODUCTION:
VACANT LAND OF OPPORTUNX TY
JAMAICA PLAIN, MASSACHUSETTS


The epitome today of neglect in the city is the urban vacant lot. It lies deserted, idle, and exposed to the wages of trash, advantageous weeds, and junk cars. It appears to be, if not in fact is, a threat to health and safety. It is the ultimate symbol of apathy.
The vacant lots which riddle the city, however, are also lands of opportunity. Not as real estate; on the contrary, vacant land investment is often more a liability and maintenance burden than a speculative boon for the landowner. Rather, there are a variety of economic, political, social, and environmental benefits which the surrounding community can enjoy from the vacant land for the five, ten, even twenty years that that property may sit waiting for construction. These benefits include improvement of neighborhood image and stability, resources for community activities and expression, opportunities for recreation and open space, and proximity to natural areas.
NEIGHBORHOOD IMAGE AND STABILITY
Employing idle land can improve neighborhood image and stability. No one can deny the negative impressions of a neighborhood at the sight of its littered, overgrown, wobbly-fenced vacant lots.
For the local residents, the sites are daily eyesores, even danger zones, and often the subject of conflict within the neighborhood. Potential renters, homeowners, or developers considering personal and monetary investment in the neighborhood become pessimistic (Varady 493). The typical condition of vacant land in the city hardly instills pride in the current residents nor encourages potential residents or housing developers who must assess the possibility of attracting new residents to such a neighborhood.
It has been suggested that the aesthetic interest of a property directly influences market values (Lai 249). Lai argues that "the more beautiful and desirable a property, the greater its inherent financial value...a lot with a scenic view or one that is surrounded by other attractively developed and well-maintained properties has greater intrinsic value than a lot with no view, surrounded by ugly land uses" (Lai 247).
No doubt, people recognize the public importance of maintenance of private outdoor spaces. The front yard is a common public
2


image concern, whereby residents sense the community obligation and awareness of the mutual benefit from maintained yards (Talbot et al. 60). Vacant lots, as large front yards for the entire neighborhood, should be subject to the same social scrutiny.
A COMMUNITY RESOURCE
Property ownership implies stewardship of a resource. In reality, however, owners of vacant land necessarily spend little time or money in their property beyond the purchase of the land in order to maximize their speculative investment. Typically, they do not take the initiative to maintain their property above minimum legal health and safety standards. Stewardship of the land as an ecological and social resource, however, can reap benefits for the community in the interim life of developable land:
If, overall, land is to be treated as a scarce resource, it must be wisely used to support the city. This suggests the positive use of much more open land, within and at the margins of urban areas, which at present lies idle, supplying neither food, naturalness, nor any other resource yet contributing, in a negative way to poor environments.... A major [obstacle is] the failure to solve the problem of escalating urban land values which have benefited a few investors at the expense of local communities who are denied both land uses in their interest and the profits from land betterment.... It represents an extraordinary waste of assets which could be used...in a great variety of positive ways (Davidson and MacEwen 107).
Land, by its very ecological nature and by its value throughout human history, is worth much more than a site for construction and can do much more than support a building. It is a resource for recreation, horticulture, artistic expression, socializing, and the myriad of things people do in the course of their daily lives.
RECREATION AND OPEN SPACE OPPORTUNITIES
Public open space increases while neglected private property diminishes neighborhood self-confidence, social cohesion (Varady
3


480), and overall quality of life. There is a coincidental lack of open space and prevalance of derelict land, particularly in the northwest and central areas of Denver, Colorado (Royston, Hanamoto, Alley and Abey; Center for Built Environment Studies). With the shortage of available land, creative uses of dispersed parcels of vacant lots might be the answer to meeting the mandate of the citys Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Master Plan for more recreation and park opportunities in these areas. Nohl suggests that urban open space activities are recreational, not productive as in rural areas, but that "we must use open spaces in order to enjoy them esthetically" (Nohl 40).
NATURE IN THE CITY
Natural laws apply in the city. Rain falls and must collect or disperse. Plants sprout up where they choose to grow, whether or not they are desirable. There are the processes of life and death with each season. Vacant land has the potential to accommodate rain, to cultivate plants, to attract wildlife, and to generally celebrate nature in the city.
People, moreover, place a high value on the visual enjoyment of nature, appreciation of the quiet of natural settings, and simply the knowledge of there being a natural site nearby. One study found natural areas in the city to be the most highly preferred over yards and common outdoor spaces. Although residents used the areas less frequently than others, they considered the natural sites to be impart a rural quality to the neighborhood and to have influence their choice to live and stay in the neighborhood (Talbot et al.).
"...BECAUSE ITS THERE"
It is known that "many central cities... contain sizable quantities of undeveloped land." In 1964, a study of forty-eight large cities indicated an average of 20% of the land area to be vacant (Glynn 31-32). A 1970s study of 106 of the largest cities in the country found a similar percentage of all urban land is undeveloped and uncommitted (Cooper-Hewitt 44). Short of saying that there is a whole frontier just outside of our high rise apartments, it is not too bold to suggest that we explore some of the possibilities urban vacant land has to offer. Indeed, vacant
4


land should not make the community feel, function nor appear half-empty when in fact those lands can make a neighborhood "full" with wildlife habitats, adventure playgrounds, community gardens, art yards, woodlots, flea markets, archeological digs, native landscapes, commons, and all the other sights and activities precious land can offer--twinkles in the eye of vacant lots.
The goal of the following paper is to introduce the concept of temporary landscapes to the profession of landscape architecture and to explore an approach to designing for interim uses on urban vacant land. Referring to available literature and consulting local sources, the methodology included: collection and interpretation of quantitative and qualitative information about vacant land, study and interpretation of past policies and innovations regarding vacant land reuse and development, exploration of temporary landscapes as a design type, and development of a process and recommendations specific to temporary landscape projects.
Divided into five parts, the paper presents the steps necessary to realize the short-term potential of undeveloped property.
Part 1 describes the dichotomous nature of vacant land as a symbol of decay and a reason for hope. Parts 2 and 3 discuss the comprehensive scope of site factors and design requirements influencing the success of a temporary landscape project. Part 4 suggests processes for selecting the best site for a desired use and for selecting an appropriate use for an available site. Part 5 offers strategies and recommendations for developing a temporary landscape project, emphasizing the importance of community involvement. The appendixes provide a range of background information and support materials for a future pilot project for the Cole neighborhood in Denver.
5


FART 1 :
THE PROBLEM AND PROMIS E OF URBAN VACANT LAND
NEW YORK CITY


THE WASTELAND CHARACTER
PROVERBIAL IMAGES ARE REALITIES
The negative image created by the neglected appearance of vacant land discourages prospective residents and businesses, "pushing a self-generating cycle of disinvestment (Cooper-Hewitt 1).
Seldom are urban vacant lots perceived as natural areas. On the contrary, they are the products of building demolitions with typically featureless compacted infertile often contaminated soil, accumulated unbiodegradable litter, and little cover or forage for wildlife. Derelict land can pose health hazards. The inherently high crime levels associated with deserted property, from illegal dumping to personal injury, add to city costs.
Nevertheless, "freer than parks, the wastlands are places on the margins. They are eddies in the city stream, out of sight and out of mind: the vacant lots, back alleys, dumps, and abandoned rights of way, the province of the young and the derelict"
(Cooper-Hewitt 18). They are unique. Some qualities, such as natural features and solace from urban bustle are important to preserve and enhance. Other qualities, however, such as illegal activities and struggling vegetation on denuded soil are motivations to "reassess" the property and to require improving its status.
PERPETUATION OF A BAD THING
What are vacant lots. Glynn describes five types of vacant land (Glynn 35-36): remnant (small, buildable, infill sites); unbuildable (sites hindered by serious physical constraints such as excess slope, poor soil, flooding); reserve (large, centrally located land for expansion/relocation); speculative (property usually near the periphery of a city); and public or semi-public (property for development of schools or the like). Remnant land is the largest proportion of vacant parcels, yet probably the least marketable. There is little data, however, on the specific characteristics, e.g., size, distribution, zoning, ownership, besides gross statistics for total acres and general estimates of developable areas. More recent studies by the Real Estate Corporation for the Department of Housing and Urban Development of "infill land" have responded to the growing interest in the
7


estate investment, but are possible incentives for interim community use of vacant properties.
A LIGHT FROM THE PAST
There has been a tradition in Denver in the past to utilize vacant land for the community benefit. From the 1900s to the 1920s, the Denver Municipal Water Plant supplied water and encouraged residents to grow grain and potatoes on property in the city as a productive alternative to weeds (Denver Municipal Facts 5):
...it was the experience of many residents last year that excellent potatoes could be raised on the vacant lots of Denver with judicious irrigation ....Municipal water may be used to combat the high cost of living, and upon thousands of vacant lots, that otherwise would be covered with obnoxious weeds, rows of succulent vegetables will grow this summer, bringing relief to the overburdened pocket book, and transforming ugly waste spots into orderly and attractive garden plots ("Water for Gardens" 2).
Additional research into the history of interim use of vacant land in Denver could provide the support of precedence and the inspiration of ideas to renew a commitment to civic pride and opportunities.
THE BASIC CAPITAL OF ANY COMMUNITY
THE KEY TO COMMUNITY CONTROL
Land is a significant part of neighborhood wealth; it is the basic commodity (Hallman 76). Finkler and his colleagues reiterate:
Land is the basic capital of any community. It is the single limited, exhaustible resource that the community really controls. By using combinations of police power and fiscal power, the community determines the use of land. But once the land is put to urban uses--uses that cover it with all manner of commercial, residential, and industrial enterprises--the communitys control disappears.
9


The future of the community is in the hands of whoever is using the land. The land that is open and not developed or land which is available for development is really the working capital of the community. It is the flexible community resource that can be directed at any number of community objectives....The developable land is what gives a community choice, the opportunity to choose (Finkler et al. 129).
Logically, if the neighborhood owns, actively uses, or regulates land, it exercises control over its own course of development in terms of land use, amenities, and overall identity.
THE RESOURCE FOR COMMUNITY IDENTITY
As the supply of developable land disappears, the community will find that it has less and less control over it3 current and future character. Unfortunately, "too many public officials believe that land not put to use and sold for something is wasted land. If it is not covered with buildings and asphalt, it is a drain on community resources, a drag on economic development.
But the truth is exactly the opposite....[I]t is also the resource that gives the community its special, unique urban character, which makes each community different from all others" (Finkler et al. 129-130).
Indeed, the land is a canvas for community expression. The message on vacant lots has been one of dispair and apathy. As neighborhoods seek identity, they turn to land issues: home renovation, community gardens, park and playground development, commercial area revitalization, streetscape. Residents can push further and embrace the private and public vacant lands for such neighborhood activity.
THE MEDIUM FOR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Land banking--investing in choice. Land banking is the public acquisition of land for the purpose of controlling and economizing on future development. The strategy is particularly attractive for low- and moderate-income housing projects. Dover argues that through land banking "the negotiated sale of urban renewal land does present an opportunity for community control,
10


particularly for local non-profit housing developers" (Dover 6). The Westtown Concerned Citizens Coalition and Northwest Community Organization in Chicago has applied the concept of urban land banking whereby lots are allocated to other community organizations, "with the idea of stopping displacement and getting the community to exercise the decisions....[T]he uses of vacant residential land are best determined by those who live and work near it" (Dover 6-7).
Unfortunately, land bank proposals generally focus on addressing the future development aspects of the program, i.e. who should acquire the land, how much land should be acquired, and what are the best means to finance the acquisitions. If the recommendation is to purchase public land purchase public land five to twenty years prior to its development (Strong 260), then there is a distinct opportunity for the land bank program also to incorporate effective plans for the interim development of those properties for the community.
Infill development via interim land uses. Typically, the intent of land banking is to secure property over time for future infill development. A public or non-profit organization may find it necessary to land bank in order to economically build "affordable" housing (Center for Built Environment Studies, Tom Edmiston, September 1987 interview). Yet, like any land speculation working against the market, Brett argues that the community must address the markets weakness or uncertainty and the poor image the neighborhood might have to encourage infill development. Positive incentives, he suggests, would be interim uses of the land for such activities as parking, gardens, and play areas. Areas which have established neighborhood organizations to assume maintenance responsibilities and which have open space or parking needs are especially appropriate for such an infill incentive program (Brett 8). Critical to the success of the program is the maintenance of the sites and the understanding by the community that the interim uses are temporary (Brett).
The prospect of "rural renewal." In light of the rather dim picture for sweeping infill construction on vacant lots and the even bleaker picture of open space opportunities in the inner city, the "modest proposal" offered in Urban Open Spaces is encouraging: "In future urban renewal plans, provision for
11


participatory open space with 'rural renewal opportunities for plants and people is a public mandate" (Cooper-Hewitt 108).
Although contrary to conventional urban sociological thought (Choldin 332), the neighborhood life cycle could be truly cyclical, whereby a community need not crash nor "redevelop," but, rather, could return to a rural character. If taken out of context, Birchs "rural" community setting offers uncanny images of what could be the next stage for the vacated "old slum" (Choldin 335): "the potential for development exists in a plot of land at the edge of a built-up area....[It may be comprised of] farms, stables, isolated factories, homesteads, junkyards, or whatever. At this point the area has a very low population density" (Choldin 333). Conventional thought and current development strategies advocate and attempt to transform the "old slum" directly into "residential development" for potential, high income, residents. Why cannot there be instead, more urban farms (Eugene), cottage industries and homesteading (Wilmington), and general greening (St. Louis, Philadelphia, Boston, etc.) in the city which would serve to return typically idle slum lands into productive spaces for existing residents?
Traditional urban redevelopment policies and programs not only deny the logical, although not official, right of the "indigenous" residents, but also proceed to totally undermine the potential of the social organization to restructure its own "blighted" spatial patterns. In light of current development practices and programs, Birch explains that "the land occupied by an old slum becomes too valuable to justify its use as an old slum and its inhabitants become too weak politically to hold on to it" (Choldin 335).
In short, urban growth is not unconditionally good, particularly in inequitable development situations which displace people and destroy neighborhoods. What has come to be acceptable as the "natural" course need not be inevitable (Gottdiener, Morgan). Rather, urban residents should expect local management of their quality of life (Gottdiener 568) through control of their physical environment. Warren argues that the more local residents organize to affect land production, distribution and consumption, the more influence they will have on the destiny of their neighborhood (Warren). What better place to start than on vacant land whose owner-intended future is tentative and whose potential for the community is endless?
12


SUCCESS POTENTIAL FOR INTERIM LANDSCAPES
Can temporary reuse of vacant land in the city be economically sound, politically possible, socially responsible, and environmentally compatible? The notion of interim landscapes implies a new genre of landscape design that is necessarily comprehensive in addressing economic, political, social, and environmental conditions.
ECONOMICALLY SOUND
The existence of speculative vacant land in the city, in fact, can hinder economic development. The razing of property for urban renewal increases neighborhood susceptibility to decline (Downs 18-19). "For those living near the abandoned lots, the problem is not solely one of appearances. Nearby homeowners fear that lots create a bad impression and turn prospective homeowners and businesses away, thus pushing a self-generating cycle of disinvestment (Dover 1). St. Louis program Project Greenlot has found that simply grading and grass-seeding vacant lots have made the properties themselves more salable (Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, City of St. Louis).
Hallman suggests, also, that "a favorable or unfavorable social environment influences land values, [as well as] the presence or absence of adverse factors in the physical environment" (Hallman 76). Conversely, "there is more and more circustantial evidence that bad environments are associated with urban alienation and violence, and that good environments could be a decisive factor in fostering local investment and regeneration" (Davidson and MacEwen 152).
The proven social benefits of open space would support the development of vacant properties for such uses that promote community cohesion. The resulting improved "social environment" not only might increase the attractiveness of the neighborhood to investors, but would be a benefit to the resident community in its own right. Vacant land "represents an extraordinary waste or assets which could be used...in a great variety of positive ways" (Davidson and MacEwen 119).
13


POLITICALLY POSSIBLE
Several cities in the United States have successfully implemented programs to address the problems with idle land. St. Louis has a rigorously enforced strict ordinance governing private lots and an innovative greening project for public properties. The essential qualities of the St. Louis ordinance is enforcement of the basic responsibility landowners have to maintain their property with aesthetic, health and safety considerations for the community. The City of Denver, encouraged by St. Louis success, is in the process of revising and tightening its ordinances governing vacant lots.
Davidson and MacEwen recognize that it is more an administrative problem than a technical one to have owners release appropriate vacant land for seemingly less profitable and unprofitable uses, especially greening. The implications are: more conscientious public and private land records, encouragement of permanent and interim release of vacant properties, increased spending on reclamation, site preparation, and incorporation of appropriate uses, including "sponsorship of local initiatives in the community use of vacant land" (Davidson and MacEwen 156-157).
All in all, there can be a new, innovative approach to urban management of resources.
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE
A major obstacle to the potential of vacant land to improve social conditions, according to Davidson and MacEwen:
is the failure to solve the problem of escalating urban land values which have benefitted a few investors at the expense of local communities who are denied both land uses in their interest and the profits from land betterment.... If, overall, land is to be treated as a scarce resource, it must be wisely used to support the city. This suggests the positive use of much more open land, within and at the margins of urban areas, which at present lies idle, supplying neither food, naturalness, nor any other resource, yet contributing, in a negative way, to poor environments (Davidson and MacEwen 107).
14


Basic to the interim use of vacant land, however, is permission from the landowner. Why would any owner, whose only interest in his or her land is its speculative potential, donate property to community use or make improvements on the land himself for the benefit of the neighborhood? The notion of altruism seems to undermine concerns of self-interest. Sociobiologists, likewise, have asked, "How can altruism, which by definition reduces personal fitness, possible evolve by natural selection?" (Rushton 14) :
...The solution to this paradox lies in the notion of kin. Cooperation, sharing, rulefollowing, and altruism...characterize the behavior of early species of human. With the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago, there was a dramatic increase in the necessity to replace aggression and selfishness with cooperation and consideration for others.
Although evolutionary theory suggests that Homo sapiens are genetically disposed to altruism, it must be emphasized that most of human behavior is acquired through social learning (Rushton 14,
34-35 ) .
The notion of altruism is, therefore, a practical, if not theoretical survival technique whereby the landowner can share kinship with the community. Indeed, some the most successful capitalists in the United States are great philanthropists. Economic, social and environmental benefits for the neighborhood described above by employing vacant land are benefits the property owner enjoys as a member of that community. The contribution of his or her land for neighborhood use can be a critical cog in the course of the community development the speculative landowner is relying on to make a profit.
ECOLOGICALLY COMPATIBLE
A number of studies have shown of "the transformation of wasteland, the greening of stark neighborhoods and saving of wildspace...that urban people perceive these (largely visual) improvements as important" (Davidson and MacEwen 152). Davidson and MacEwen argue in The Livable City that cities should: aim to enable land to be capable of supporting diverse natural life and the safe production of
15


food...[to] create much more [greenspace] of different kinds in and around urban areas to increase wild habitats, enhance the visual environment, and provide for recreation and education... make the most of opportunities for growing food and trees for a variety of purposes ...investigate the potential for large scale multi-purpose woods within cities (Davidson and MacEwen 157).
Dover definitively suggests that "the cycle of decline, abandonment, demolition, vacant lot creation, and further disinvestment has its root in the broader social and economic problems.... Those working on the problem suggest that what is needed now is to create the political will for the adoption and vigorous implementation of new strategies" (Dover 7). Interim landscape design, as such a strategy, could:
Economically
1. serve to maintain or increase land values
2. create neighborhood income opportunities
3. strive to be "no cost"
Politically and Socially
4. rely on some level of community participation from conception through construction
5. foster local self-reliance and community pride
6. provide unique cultural and recreational opportunities
Environmen tally
7. improve urban environmental quality and ecological diversity
8. be instantly "mature" but potentially evolve.
What are the factors influencing the design potential of interim landscapes to meet the above comprehensive program?
16


PART 2:
NEIGHBORHOOD VACANT INVENTORY AND ANALYSIS
LOT
FACTORS
DENVER


The interim landscape design process must consider that the impetus for design may be site-based or use-based. Whoever is taking the initiative for a project either will have a site in mind which they want to use or, as with a community garden group, they will have a use for which they need a site. Also, as reflected by the far-reaching benefits of interim use of vacant land, the factors are necessarily comprehensive which direct the initial selection and development of an interim use or of a site for an interim use.
The scope of the inventory and analysis for a site, therefore, must address the same influences on an interim uses potential for success: the land, from its real estate status to its ecology; the landowners, from their property rights to their support of the project; the residents, from their demands to their commitment to the project; the law, from zoning to liability; the designer, from hired consultant to independent artist; support, from corporate sponsorship to bake sales; and the future, from daily maintenance to permanent status. In short, the potential of the "site" is the composite of the vacant lot's potential and the neighborhood's potential for nurturing a temporary landscape with specific, parallel requirements (see Part 3 of this thesis).
THE LAND
LOCATION
The location of an interim landscape concerns a combination of circumstances in the neighborhood:
Appropriately convenient. Successful community use of vacant land requires that the location be convenient to the residents. Hester suggests that four hundred feet from home is the ''maximum" distance for open space to be actively used by the community (Hester 18). He cautions against developing "leftover land without such regard (Hester 179). Concerning community gardens, "the National Allotments and Garden Society have noted that under-use of allotments may be more a function of their position and poor quality--ill-drained and otherwise poorly managed rather than of any lack of interest" (Davidson and MacEwen 144). Fringe properties, therefore, might be more appropriate as
18


experimental plots, naturalized areas or strictly aesthetic functions.
Vulnerability to vandalism. Some passive uses can benefit from proximity to a high traffic, high visibility area if they are particularly susceptible to vandalism (e.g., art spaces).
Depending on the neighborhood, "off the beaten track" can mean disaster area or hidden gem.
Compatible with surrounding uses. Logically, the uses of property surrounding the land in question will have an effect on the function of the new use of a vacant lot. For example, a liquor store on the corner might become the source of loitering related activities in a nearby sitting-park. If such "scenes" are undesirable, a more active use or a strictly visual design might better suit the vacant site. Likewise, uses which generate noisy activity, such as a childrens playground, or increased auto traffic and parking demand, such as a street fair, should be located accordingly.
SIZE
Size is an important variable for most land uses. Physically, some land uses require minimum, or maximum, areas. For example, a community garden must have space for several garden plots or sufficient communal area to be worthwhile to share. A 25-foot by 125-foot lot can accommodate five to ten small family garden plots. Depending on the location, however, the adequacy of the number of plots is a reflection of the amount of community interest in gardens. For example, in a densely populated neighborhood of Hmong immigrants, who are culturally avid gardeners, that single building lot might be grossly inadequate in serving the gardeners in the community. Denver Urban Gardens, which is dedicated to acquiring long-term use of land for community gardens, favors lots that can divide into a minimum of twelve family plots.
ECOLOGY
Concern for environmental health has long-range benefits for social health. Indeed, the very qualities necessary for bird habitat in the city, Hounsome argues, are similar to those that
19


favor humans (Laurie 179-200). Proponents of "wildlands" have described the wastelands of the city as potentially flourishing natural landscapes. The distinct advantage of natural landscapes over cultivated ones is their inherent diversity. "Nutrient and energy resources produced by the city, having no perceived value, contribute to the pollution of a stressed environment. The reclamation of derelict land often substitutes new horticultural deserts for naturally regenerating sites" (Hough 52). In City Form and Natural Process, Hough supports and directs a movement towards more ecologically dynamic and sound land uses.
Necessary solar exposure. The orientation of the sun is a critical factor in varying degrees for such outdoor activities as gardening, theater seating, and athletic sports fields/courts.
Soil condition. The "soil" on vacant lots can vary from being virtually non-existent on demolition or landfill sites to offering rich loam on long abandoned leaf-littered lots or on property of former residential gardens. The typical "'soil of a demolished building site consists of rubble and fill. It is desiccated, highly compacted, contaminated with [toxics], and contains little organic material" (Spirn 179). Generally, the better the soil, the more ideal for extensive planting schemes. Although soil can be "built-up" with the addition of manures, compost and the like, it takes years to establish a garden on such a site. Moreover, protection of the investment of time and resources required to build the soil can be nothing less than the difficult and expensive transport of it to a new location. Soil is also a key factor in the drainage pattern of the site and should be addressed accordingly in design.
Relief. Variable topography is not common on urban vacant lots. For certain interim uses, however, the distinctive relief of a site is critical, such as the creation of an amphitheatre/sunpit. For many designs, level ground is acceptable, but the particular lay of the land can help to delineate use areas and add interest to the site. Moreover, relief, with soil, is key to the drainage of the site and should be noted in all site analyses and addressed in all design solutions.
Vegetation. Spirn contends that "only a few plants can colonize vacant lots, hardy breeds capable of surviving the stresses of bare disturbed soil. They are mainly annual and biennial plants, xerphytic, light- and heat-demanding, frost hardy, deep-rooted
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and fast growing" (Sprin 179). On a few sites there will remain an established tree or planting of shrubs to capitalize on in an interim design. Otherwise, any new plantings may require additional irrigation to survive initially, depending on the plant species, soil type, and solar exposure.
SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS
Special characteristics of a site can help identify its appropriateness for an interim use. Specifically, water availability, existing fencing, current uses, and unique features may be the only characteristics to distinguish one vacant lot from another.
Once an interim use is established on a site, the specific existing and introduced details of that design, in turn, become the special characteristics of the site. Hence, in the descriptions of the design alternatives in Part 3 of this thesis, the following factors include both the requirements of the existing site and the physical design elements characteristic of the interim use. The creative play props for an adventure playground, for example, or collection bins for a recycling center, distinguish the site as such and no longer as a vacant lot.
Water availability. Water is probably the most critical survival criteria for any landscape design with plantings, particularly in Colorado. Without a water source, either from adjacent property, from a fire hydrant on the same side of the street, from a mobile water tank, from onsite storage tanks, or from a tap on the site itself (Sommers Community 56-57), even a xeriscape landscape will have difficulty establishing itself. Installing water taps is an expensive proposition, particularly for short-term use. If the future use of a vacant property is known, however, its designated water tap could be in place early on to support the interim landscape.
Fencing. Fencing is an important site improvement that is not typical on vacant lots, but is essential to the success of some interim uses. Installing an adequate fence, nonetheless, may be too expensive. Existing fencing, therefore, could be a definitive factor in what interim uses a site can accommodate,
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depending on the support potential for the project and the anticipated tenure on the site.
Current uses. If residents currently use a site, the activities may need to be incorporated into the design to gain neighborhood support for the project. Indeed, current uses are a site accommodation factor which may suggest the best use and design selection for a project. For example, if a derelict site serves as a short cut from one street to another, the design of the temporary landscape should integrate or otherwise provide for that use. If not, at best people may "trespass" across the new design of the site.
Unique features. Existing unique features of a site might have historical, cultural, ecological, emotional, or other significance to the immediate or larger community. These features may be physical or "spiritual." In an historic district, for example, a vacant lot could commemorate the representative landscape of a period in the neighborhoods life. Although not a design specific to the site, Alan Sonfists "Time Landscape" on a vacant lot in New York City was an historic recreation of the Pre-Colonial forest that might have stood there (Sonfist 68-72).
In another scenario, children in a neighborhood might have a favorite climbing tree on a vacant lot. If the site will serve other uses, then the special tree and its function should remain in some capacity. Possibly, such a tree might in fact be too dangerous to leave standing, in which case the children should have a real role in deciding its future: conversion into a tree house support, carving into a sculpture, leaving for wildlife and excluding childrens play?
THE LANDOWNERS
Undoubtedly, the deciding factor for whether a vacant site will enjoy interim use is permission from the landowner and "consent" from adjacent property owners. Few studies exist which could help in understanding and working with landowners on interim uses of their property. One study of Miami, Seattle, and Rochester infill development potentials, found the vast majority of vacant landowners were local businesses or individuals. Less than one-third were in the real estate, building or development business
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professionally. Most had owned the property more than five years. The reasons for owning the land varied: as an investment, for long-range personal use, in anticipation of future expansion of an adjacent business, for more parking, or for public uses. Fifty-six to sixty-two percent said their land would be developed or available for purchase within five years (Brett 5, Glynn 42).
PROPERTY RIGHTS OF THE OWNER
The proverbial bottom-line on what can be done with a piece of property rests with the landowner. Any desired use of a vacant lot by the community or other individuals must be at the least permitted and ideally supported by the owner. The success of squatting uses relies on the apparent apathy of an owner who can not be contacted for permission.
RESPECT OF ADJACENT OWNERS
The proposed interim use of a vacant lot should be compatible with the adjacent land uses and acceptable to their respective landowners. Compatibility of uses assures the mutual benefit of the vacant lot reuse and the adjacent landuses. Much as cafes and retail shops support each others market on a commercial strip, for example, a community garden in a residential area is better maintained while fostering community pride. Moreover, th zoning ordinance requires any request for rezoning to be acceptable to all property owners within 200 feet of the site in question.
THE RESIDENTS
A design for the community should be a reflection of the users, not of the professional designer. "You cannot separate design from community development (Hester 186)....The important point is that the use of neighborhood space depends on many factors other than the design of the space and varies significantly from neighborhood to neighborhood" depending on: quality and quantity of space, social makeup (socioeconomic status, life cycle stage, sex, ethnicity, religion), psychological preferences, accessibility (Hester 18). Indeed, "the way people feel about
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and interact in a space is just as important as what they do in that space" (Hester 28).
ACTIVITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL PREFERENCES
In general, community open space sustains work activities, leisure activities, political gatherings, educational projects, and movement (Hester 20). "Small open spaces squeezed between houses are generally more suitable for home-based recreation than as public parks or playgrounds." Street games, sitting out-of-doors, talking, looking, walking, playing and gardening are the predominant home-based recreation activities (Brower 369) which open space within the neighborhood can support. In low income neighborhoods, residents use open space more frequently, more informally and for less organized activities than other neighborhoods (Hester 49). There is more social interaction in the low socioeconomic communities where house fronts, porches, steps, sidewalks, and streets are the open spaces (Hester 18). In one study, the highest number of activities were respectively (Hester 17): in the frontyard (random play, general play, object play), on the front stoop (non-active), in the backyard (basketball), on the street (biking, ball play, skating), at the community center (active), on the sidewalk (walking). The park spaces were not one of the more active outdoor spaces. Such studies are hardly conclusive. Their implications, however, are critical. Namely, that people have preferential environments for activities, and that designs must reflect those preferences in order to succeed.
COLLECTIVE-SYMBOLIC OWNERSHIP
"Public and ambiguously owned private spaces...[e.g.,] a vacant lot in the neighborhood whose private ownership is unclear to the residents... lend themselves to collective-symbolic ownership more than clearly privately owned properties" (Hester 13). Other influences on collective-symbolic ownership include (Hester 14): shared use, joint involvement in acquisition, planning and change of spaces, value as a status object to outsiders, value to peer group, and increasingly meeting special needs. Generally,
"as frequency of use and intensity of involvement increase, collective-symbolic ownership increases," according to Hester (Hester 14). Indeed, this concept poses a catch-22 which
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requires the new community landscape project to be self-sufficient enough initially to survive the lag between construction and adoption by the users. Ideally, the project should have committed support from a few dedicated residents who can help nurture a larger collective sense of ownership.
THE LAW
The law can both restrict and liberate the community use of vacant property. Zoning compliance, liability risks, ordinance enforcement, and legal incentives can be influential to varying degrees for different interim landscape designs.
ZONING
Due to the temporary nature of interim uses of vacant land, designated zoning may not be as much a restriction as in permanent landuse situations. A temporary landscape can be developed informally on any property if there is no neighborhood opposition. At any point in the informal design process, however, if there are any complaints about the use or if permits are needed for site improvements, the interim use will be subject to zoning review.
Denvers zoning code (see Appendix N) is written such that it allows no use on a property unless that U3e is specifically listed as an accessory use that is common and incidental as a "use by right" or use by temporary permit in the propertys zone district. There are no provisions for use by special permit in the zoning ordinance.
Needless to say, because many of the interim design ideas described in this paper are not traditional urban land-use classifications, they are not specified as uses-by-right or temporary permit in any zoning district. Some uses, moreover, are specifically prohibited if associated by a traditional use. For example, a skating rink is considered to be an amusement and, therefore, a traffic generator that is undesirable in residential and local business zones.
Formal zoning compliance may require applying for rezoning or a change in the official language of what constitute uses-by-right
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or temporary permit. Applications for proposed changes are reviewed by several parties, over a period of three to six months, and costing the applicant between $250 and $600 depending on the type of application.
Rezoning to a more permissable designation is only possible if such a zone is adjacent to the property for which rezoning is desired. A Planned Unit Development (PUD) application can seek to designate the vacant lot as a specific zone district for which the applicant writes precise regulations, enjoys flexibility during the planning stage, and involves neighborhood residents in the design development. Community gardens have come to be recognized by Denvers Zoning Administration as a use with minimal impact on the land and an interpretation of the notion of use-by-right of the individual to include use-by-right of the neighborhood community.
In all cases, an authorized use can have a time limit stated which will allow the land to revert to its original status to preserve the rights of the landowner to speculatively develop her or his land. Language change applications are the least expensive and can set precedence for subsequent interim design projects in the zoning district classification while PUD districts are site specific (Zoning Administration, Curtis Westphal, March 1988 interview).
The use of vacant land for appropriate uses currently not accounted for in the zoning ordinance can serve to diversify land use in a neighborhood and create a variety of activities for the residents. Such "rezoning" is more representative of and responsive to the communitys needs and desires. As Peter Blake more strongly agrues, communities should abolish mono-functional zoning which has divided the city into ghettos, destroying the vital mix of activities: "Single-use zoninga notion most seriously advanced by the pioneers of the Modern Movementis, quite simply the end of urban civilization" (Blake 157).
Further study of the zoning ordinance and assessment of the specific interim uses will help to identify potential zoning issues and strategies for each project.
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LIABILITY
Liability coverage is essential and may be the overriding consideration by a private landowner whether to allow others to use his or her property. Cities, non-profit assistance groups, publicly-funded sponsors may be able to cover a neighborhoods vacant lot project under a blanket or other policy which covers many sites for much less per site than an individual policy. Private corporations may offer to cover the policy or donate the cost to open a regular one. Private landowners may have sufficient insurance to cover the activity under lease. In general, self-coverage is expensive and difficult to get for small, single-project policies (Bolton 27). Unfortunately, some agencies shy away from insuring uses which do not fall under normal classifications (Sommers Community 117).
Sommers outlines some of the factors on which insurance premiums are based: frontage of property, square footage of site, number of users, activities. Signed waiver or releases are not binding. Posting signs warning of risks or issuing releases may discourage lawsuits, but are not legal defense in court.
ORDINANCES
In Denver, the ordinances governing vacant lots are ones general to any property, namely concerning weed height and physical safety or health hazards (see Appendix 0). Complaints to the landowner may see that the appearance of the site may improve. Offering to "protect" the owner from the responsibility of compliance by maintaining the property for the negligent owner, interested neighbors may be able to use the property in return.
INCENTIVES
The city has also instituted a Weed Control Program, tailored along the approach of the St. Louis program, "to control weed growth on city-owned vacant lots through-out the city and to assist citizens in their efforts to clean their neighborhoods" (City and County of Denver, "1987 Weed Control Program" 1).
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THE DESIGNER
The professional designer may or may not be involved in the interim development of a vacant lot. That involvement can cover the spectrum, from community consultant to independent artist. The landscape architect ideally embodies the broad understanding of land and people and the aesthetic sensitivity to fulfill the necessarily comprehensive role of interim landscape designer.
For some uses, a professional is not needed for the design. Werner Nohl suggests that
If users of [urban] open spaces are to develop esthetic images [of nature], their activities should not be prescribed or predetermined. Instead, activities should be independent, creative, educational, and cooperative and should involve the environment. This type of activity can be described by the term appropriation. Appropriation does not lead to the destruction of nature because it is oriented to the functional value of the space and because if depends on agreement with other users (Nohl 39).
Nohl continues, "today most open spaces are designed in detail.... The appropriation of open spaces by nature or users is also made difficult because implementing and maintaining the design is expensive."
FACILITATOR-CONSULTANT
One critical role of the designer in the community participatory process is to be facilitator. Robin Moore suggests that the designer should remain and function as resource/manager through the construction process in participatory projects (Moore 220).
SYNTHESIZER-COMPOSER
The designer can incorporate the composite of factors influencing a site--the ecology, economics, legalities, community preferences, etc.--in his or her own design process.
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ARTIST-CREATOR
The designer as artist may design freely without consideration of the more analytical factors of the site.
RESIDENT DESIGN-BY-USE
For some interim uses, the design process is limited to the development of the site as it is appropriated and used by the residents. It is no-design in a formal sense, requiring no professional consultation or written site plans, but can be a complex process, nonetheless, as on an adventure playground.
THE SUPPORT
Support for any interim landscape design must include the funds, materials, and/or labor required to follow the project through construction and maintenance. Expense items include materials, insurance premiums, lease payments, license fees (e.g., for Christmas tree sales, daycare activities, garden sales, special eventssee Denver Municipal Code, Chapter 32). Labor can be an expense, but may be easier to attained as a donated service.
SPONSORSHIP
Little Leauge teams have sponsors who buy their field-use fees, uniforms, snacks after the game, team photos, and the like. The only difference between the Little League team and the neighborhood garden down the street, is the long tradition of sponsorship in team sports. Both are visible, social, community-oriented entities. Hartford, Connecticuts community gardens are supported by a variety of sponsors, such as insurance companies, which publicize their community support on the garden sites colorful signs, in news releases of celebrity groundbreaking ceremonies, and at area-wide festivalsnot unlike the promotion businesses receive from their names on ballplayer jerseys and the team scores on the sports page. In Denver, there was corporate initiation and support of the temporary recycling of a vacant lot into the Grant Street Plaza. United Banks project is an example of a successful co-beneficial
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transformation of an idle eyesore across the street from the banks offices, into a popular lunch park near downtown.
FUNDRAISING
Successful fundraising efforts are easiest with a visible positive image and track record for the project: an unfortunate catch-22. Difficulty notwithstanding, it is important that the budget for a project can be met, either internally, such as through garden-plot fees, or externally, such as firewood or produce sales or donations. As much as possible, expenses for materials and services should be sought as donations, not only to offset costs, but to expand the platform of support behind the project. The process of local fundraising has the added benefit of publicity. Even if residents or businesses do not donate, their new knowledge of a project is an essential part to public acceptance and support.
THE FUTURE
CONSTRUCTION AND MAINTENANCE
Continuing management of maintenance, planting, watering.
Critical to the success of any landscape design is the continuing management of maintenance, planting, and watering of the site (Davidson and MacEwen 108). Maintenance activities need not connote mundane chores. On the contrary, the design process is open ended, with room for feedback and resource uncertainties which influence the ongoing life of the site. Moore suggests that a project "must maintain a minimum level of change" (Moore 220). Maintenance, in other words, can become an extension of design activities--e.g., flower plantings change each year, a under utilized grassy sitting area becomes a more popular play field for preschoolers, trash receptacles are relocated where most people gather at lunch time.
Success as key to the cause. The importance of maintenance in community (versus an individual) projects cannot be overstated. When a project fails, "the loss is much greater than a single work of beauty." Measured in lost pride and neighborhood self-confidence, a failure threatens the potential for other, similar projects and the credibility of "grass-roots" efforts in the
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minds of all--government, corporations, and residents (Trust for Public Land, "Maintenance" section 1).
Minimum cost for maximum effect. Maintenance activities should require the minimum amount of money investment. Such tasks as cleaning, planting, and painting which rely on labor recognize the traditional wealth of humanpower in economically poor communities. These activities, moreover, provide the most immediate, visible, and inexpensive improvements--important components in the communitys continued support and enthusiasm for a project (Trust for Public Land, "Design" section 11).
Generating people as the resource. Incorporating activities which appeal to the most number of people could increase the pool of volunteers interested in maintaining the site. Activities which appeal to playground supervisors such as ball playing, instead of jungle gym climbing, would encourage the adults who also enjoy the playground to care about its maintenance (Trust for Public Land, "Design" section 12). Additionally, the establishment of a maintenance endowment, agreement with a local manpower program, local landscape maintenance business, or municipal department may be available for specific maintenance tasks on the site (Trust for Public Land, "Maintenance" section 2) .
Quality maintenance as critical. Concerning legal vulnerability, "the decision to file a [liability] suit, especially in minor injury cases, can definitely be influenced by the safety perception of the plantiff. If a park area is well-tended, with the grass cut, the flower beds weeded, the bench slats repaired, then the user has a better feeling of security than in an area of disrepair" (Wallach 42).
In summary, the Trust for Public Land provides a list of five essential tasks for the maintenance of public open space (Trust for Public Land, "Maintenance" section 3):
1. Involve and sustain the energy of a wide range of people.
2. Raise cash to meet ongoing expenses.
Tend to the physical details which will keep the site in working order.
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3.


4. Maintain high use of the site.
5. Keep looking for ways to care for the neighborhoods future by improving open space resources.
PHASING FLEXIBILITY
In many situations, the lease on a site for a temporary landscape is intended to give the landowner the option to develop her or his land. Often the owner will renew the short-term lease repeatedly if development is not feasible or desirable at that date. Thus, those interested in making improvements on an interim design for a vacant property usually risk their investment without the benefit of a long-term lease.
In New Haven, Connecticut, a community garden secured an annual lease on state land for ten consecutive years. Each year, the gardeners made improvements on the site with the confidence that the state would continue to renew their lease. Indeed, the eight square city blocks of which the garden is only an acre have been vacant for over thirty years in anticipation of a highway development that never materialized.
How can designs evolve to maximize the potential of extended tenure such that at the end of thirty unsure years there could stand a mature community orchard instead of a swath of land that divides two neighborhoods, a trashed and crime-ridden "no mans land?" Further study could explore the potential for phasing the development of a temporary landscape as the tenure period on a site is incrementally extended.
POTENTIAL FOR PERMANENCE
Local land trusts facilitate the permanent acquisition of property for community open space use (see Appendix M).
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I?ART" 3 :
INTERIM DESIGN IDEAS INVENTORY AND ANALYSIS


The design suggestions which follow are intended to illustrate the scope of interim uses for vacant land. While each is outlined individually, with specific design requirements, a combination of uses may better meet the neighborhoods variety of interests and needs. A site bustling with activities, likewise, discourages vandalism and inspires community support of the site. Linn and others herald the importance of multi-use designs to maximize the potential of a site to succeed as a community resource.
Catagorized into seven landscape types, the fifty design ideas include wildlands, art spaces, gardens, passive parks, active recreation areas, service areas, and information landscapes.
Each type offers unique contributions to the community, requires different design approaches, and relies on certain local assistance sources (some yet to be identified).
Each design idea, in turn, is described in terms of the same analysis factors as the sites which may feature that use. The following notes on design requirements reflect a combination of common sense, landscape design principles, research, and intuitive suggestions. Further development of the requirements, as pilot projects for each use are pursued, is critical to their value as guiding factors for future interim landscape designs.
It also would be valuable to explore the uses and possible combinations of uses in terms of their effectiveness through the seasons, to utilize the sites year-round.
WILDLANDS
DEFINITION
"Wildlands" are characteristically natural-looking, if not naturally occuring, areas within urban settings. Vacant lots could be veritable wilderness relative to the typical sterility of the city surrounding them.
CONTRIBUTION
Nature in the city is particularly poignant. Goode and Smart explain that the importance of natural, or semi-natural, sites in
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urban areas greatly depends their value to local people (Bradshaw et al. 220). Anne Whiston Spirn suggests that deserted land can harbor the landscape that distinguishes a city from all others, preserving the regional context of a community (Spirn 200) that is all but lost to the generic urban landscape of lawn and "exotic" trees and shrubs. One study found that people in an urban housing complex used a natural area "less frequently than other, closer open spaces, this nature refuge is considered to be extremely valuable" (Talbot et al. 60).
Historically wildlands are popular with children as places of play and discovery. "...[T]here is great potential for saving and creating more 'wild' land in cities which can 'touch so very many more people: in parks and playspaces, in urban woodlands and on land owned by public utility companies" (Davidson and MacEwen 108). The initial cost and labor requirement for wildlands can be comparable to traditional horticulture landscapes, but here is a psychological need for "domesticate wilderness" in the city (Cooper-Hewitt 119).
Wildlands are distinguished by native, or adaptive introduced, plantings which inherently incorporate natural diversity, color changes, and variety of textures in the landscape (Morrison 142). As the producers in the ecological cycle, the plants in a landscape are the basis for the rich array of urban microenvironments possible to attract insects, birds and other wildlife which find the typically inorganic environs of a city inhospitable.
APPROACH
Ecology. Creation of wildlands cannot rely on natural invasion by native species due to the soil alterations and changes in microclimate characteristic of urban settings (Morrison 142). Vacant lots within the inner city do not typically look "wild", but rather unkempt with advantageous weeds in compacted, minimal topsoil and little wildlife. Moreover, "much of the present greening activities of urban parks departments and others who manage urban open space [are often] unsympathetic ...to the requirements of ecological diversity. Reacting against the spread of exotic trees and shrubs and manicured rosebeds, members of wild life groups in some of the larger conurbations [in England]... have introduced a different approach to greening the
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city by converting vacant and derelict land of all kinds into new and varied habitats" (Davidson and MacEwen 141).
Spirn argues that vacant land is similar to land cleared for farming or timber, where the temporary community of soil-building plants hasten the decomposition of rubble by retaining moisture and encourage microorganisms. These "weeds" are the early stage of the natural landscapes succession from forbes to trees (Spirn 187).
Concerning the ideal notion of "native" plantings, the ecology of a natural area is often characterized by flourishing "alien species that are well adapted to the site. For example,
Ailanthus sp., or the Tree of Heaven, was imported from China in the 18th century as an ornamental plant. While this weak, shortlived, and smelly "weed tree" has now become the halmark of derelict land, its fast growth (several feet per year under adverse conditions) and hardiness warrant it serious consideration in the landscaping of difficult sites. Sumac and sunflower species, similarly associated with invasive growth, are slowly earning favor in the landscape plant palette (Spirn 182-83).
Neighborhood open space. Several European countries have successfully incorporated "wild areas" and "play woods" in new housing development designs. In West Berlin, for example, a railroad right-of-way destroyed in World War II, over the course of decades, developed diverse vegetation. One-third of all native and alien plant species in Berlin can be found on this site:
Dense wooded thickets, wildflower meadows, and pockets of cattails and phragmites, laced with ruined walls, old bridges, and overgrown railroad tracks, create and eerie and exciting landscape [of ninety acres]. The Berlin Technical University has proposed a design for the site which would set aside half as a nature park and develop the remainder as garden plots, intensive recreation areas, sports fields, and playgrounds. The management of the nature park portion, as proposed, would be minimal and inexpensive, consisting mainly of rubbish removal an infrequent mowing (Spirn 199).
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Unfortunately, studies of similar situations of wooded or tall grass lots near homes have found that because parents are unfamiliar with the sites, discourage their children from playing in them. Marcus and Sarkissian suggest that "it may be necessary to educate parents as to the creative and educational benefits of wild areas and to legitimize them as places by fencing, a gate, or a name" (Marcus and Sarkissian 131).
RESOURCES FOR DENVER
Division of Wildlife
6060 Broadway
Denver, Colorado 80216
Soil Conservation Service 2490 W. 26th Avenue Denver, Colorado 80211
National Wildflower Research Center 2600 FM 973 North Austin, Texas 78725
Applewood Seed Company
P.O. Box 10761 Edgemont Station
Golden, Colorado 80401
National Institute for Urban Wildlife 10921 Trotting Ridge Way Columbia, Maryland 21044-2831
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DESIGN IDEAS FOR WILDLANDS


Nature Play Space
Marcus and Sarkissian suggest that a successful nature play space is one which is an attractive and stimulating natural site intended for unmaintained, creative play (Marcus and Sarkissian 132). The integrity of the "natural" qualities is not as important as the opportunity for unstructured play.
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for NATURE PLAY SPACE:
LOCATION FACTOR: Marcus and Sarkissian recommend locating nature play spaces in central locations, within calling distances of homes.
LOT SIZE: A site of any size can provide play opportunities if their are natural elements that encourage exploration and imaginative play. Indeed, the tiniest mud puddle after a rain can entertain small children for hours.
SUN: For comfort and maximum use, both sun and shade are
desirable. The notion of "natural," however, invites the opportunity for children to explore the ecology of shady sites such as a tree grove and its unique, moister understory. Additional plantings/structure or selective clearing can serve to create more sun or shade if desirable.
SOIL: In order for new plantings to become established, soil
must be habitable. The need for an appropriate site to already have a natural quality, however, implies that there is existing vegetation growing in adequate soil. Rubbled sites may pose hazards.
RELIEF: For any play space to be exciting, height changes,
either in landform or structures is important. In a natural play area, landform changes most appropriately inspire a variety of activities with the different spaces and landscape character created by hills and bowls.
VEGETATION: Marcus and Sarkissian recommend that the
selected site for nature play be well-vegetated. As a temporary site, an established planting of shrubs, a mature tree, or a grove of trees is critical to assure that the area is attractive, exciting, and recognized as a nature play space. Additional
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plantings of fast-growing shrubs and trees that are resistant to harsh treatment may be desirable.
WATER: Water must be available at least to establish new
plantings unless a self-maintained site is already a nature play space in all but name. Natural drainage patterns on the site can suggest areas most likely to sustain new plantings.
FENCING: Marcus and Sarkissian suggest that a fence and name
for the wild area may help to designate it as a legitimate childs place. A screen or fence around the area can give children using it a sense of enclosure and privacy and can "protect" adults who may not find the appearance acceptable.
UNIQUE FEATURE: Unique features such as a large fallen tree or an intermittent stream can be a dynamic addition to a nature play space, but are not required for its success. Such features as a pond or boulders could be "introduced" to the area if available and readily transportable. Marcus and Sarkissian encourage, if possible, the collection of "junk" (perhaps leftover building materials) on the site for creative play.
COMMUNITY INPUT: At the least, the residents surrounding the site should express approval of the nature play space in their neighborhood. Ideally, the children who will enjoy the area should participate in its development, both for their own experience and to confer them with some responsibility for the site. Marcus and Sarkissian recommend that an account of the potential use and worth of a wild area appear in the tenants or homeowners manual (or newsletter, newspaper editorial or article, poster, site sign, etc.) to inspire understanding and support of the play space.
USE HAZARDS: Adequate liability coverage is essential on any site where there is active childrens play. It is important to understand that a natural play area is not inherently more "dangerous" than a traditional playground. On the contrary, playgrounds which restrict creative play and the variety of play activities pose more risk to children who, when bored, overextend the designed safety limits of play equipment (e.g., climbing along the top bar of a metal swing set, ten feet above asphalt paving, versus climbing the limbs of a large tree above shrubs and grasses).
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DESIGNER ROLE: The design of a nature play space could be anything from the independent landscape creation of an environmental artist to the spontaneous appropriation of a natural site by the neighboring residents. In either case, an understanding and respect of the ecology in any development of the site would insure the survival of the areas natural qualities and, likewise, its success as a nature play space.
SUPPORT DEMAND: If a site is a naturally occurring play space, the cost of its "development" is minimal. Improvements such as additional plantings, creating a pond, fencing, and signage would cost accordingly. Direct user fees or on-site fundraising are not applicable funding sources. Financial support of a nature play space most likely would come indirectly from grants, donations, or peripheral fundraising at community events.
MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: Assuming that the natural qualities of the site are self-maintaining, the nature play space should require little maintenance, specifically, litter pick-up (which the children using the space could do), routine safety check for potential hazards. Some additional "maintenance might serve as play activities, such as planting new shrubs, seeding wild flowers, building birdhouses (and keeping them filled).
TENURE: A one-year tenure would suffice assuming the nature
play space is naturally occurring, whereby children could enjoy the site from the onset of its designation as a play area during all seasons without additional improvements made to the site besides routine maintenance.
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Natural Area
Natural areas are deserted sites left to natures course. While derelict land can appear "untidy" to some people, the distinctive flora of disturbed ground can afford protection and sustenance to an array of wildlife. Indeed, Laurie argues that such sites have some of the most interesting natural history (Laurie 195).
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for NATURAL AREA:
LOCATION FACTOR: A natural area could be in most any location, with some design considerations: fencing if susceptibile to dumping (e.g., isolated location), cosmetic maintenance if perceived "untidy" (e.g., business district), permitting play (e.g., within calling distances of homes).
LOT SIZE: A site of any size can provide some presence of a natural area in a neighborhood.
SUN: The particular solar qualities of a natural area are
essential to its character and therefore not qualitative.
SOIL: The assumption that a site is already natural implies
that there is existing vegetation growing in adequate soil.
RELIEF: The particular topography of a natural area is essential
to the sites character and, therefore, not qualitative. Variety of landform, however, may make one site more interesting over another (see BLM Visual Resource Management Program).
VEGETATION: By definition, a natural area implies
established vegetation that distinguishes it from more typical scraped vacant lot. A site may harbor a uniquely vigorous cover of grasses and forbs or a stand of trees. For Denver, Spirn recommends encouraging an "orchardlike woodland whereby the citys plant communities make "survival more secure, appearance more lush, management more economical" (Spirn 188). Additional plantings of native fast-growing shrubs and trees that are particularly attractive to wildlife (birds, butterflies, insects) may be desirable.
WATER: Existing water supply (runoff, rain) presumably should
continue to sustain a natural area.
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FENCING: Fencing is not inherently necessary to the survival of
a natural area. If the site, however, is susceptable to dumping activities or if liability coverage requires no trespassing, a fence is important.
UNIQUE FEATURES: Unique features such as a statuesque tree or rock outcrop can further distinguish the site as a special, natural area, but their absence does not make a site any less natural.
COMMUNITY INPUT: A natural area can exist with or without community involvement. Indeed, designation of a natural area is merely recognition of its existence.
USE HAZARDS: Natural areas lend themselves to sites that must be closed to the public for liability or other reasons, but that can be seen and enjoyed by passersby. Ideally, the public should have access to the site as a physical retreat. If there is passive use, some attention to "tidying up any obvious hazards (e.g. glass, branches) would be important.
DESIGNER ROLE: The design of a natural area should focus on enhancement of the existing landscape, e.g. adding native plant material attractive to wildlife, thinning advantageous "alien" growth to encourage other plant species. The development of such a design could also be successful as an educational effort by students with guidance from environmental design specialists.
2 SUPPORT DEMAND: If a site is a natural area already, the cost of its "development" is minimal. Improvements such as additional plantings, fencing, and signage would cost accordingly. Direct user fees or on-site fundraising are not applicable funding sources. Financial support of a natural area most likely would come indirectly from grants, donations, or peripheral fundraising at community events.
1 MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: Assuming that the natural qualities of the site are self-maintaining, a natural area will require minimal maintenance beyond litter pick-up. "The 'tidying up of such areas usually destroys much more interest than it creates"
(Laurie 195-6).
1 TENURE: A one-year tenure would suffice since site is an existing natural area.
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Wildlife Sanctuary
The National Institute for Urban Wildlife will designate as urban wildlife sanctuaries sites "from a 13,000-acre refuge surrounding a North Carolina nuclear plant to a 10-square-foot porch on a third-floor apartment in Washington, D.C." (Ensslin). Goode and Smart explain:
although naturalistic planting and the creation of new wildlife habitats are now an accepted part of landscape design, there is a danger, especially in urban settings, that schemes may produce little more than a green veneer.... For success in developing new wildlife habitats it is necessary to consider the detailed needs of a range of species.... it is argued that the right habitat is not sufficient in itself and that consideration must also be given to the management of people (Goode and Smart in Bradshaw et al. 219).
Wildlife species can include mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. Certain insects are likely the most easily and quickly attracted to a site (e.g., see Kaye Christies "Planting a Butterfly Garden" in Backyard Bugwatching. Sonoran Arthropod Studies, Inc., 1 (Fall 1986): 10).
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for WILDLIFE SANCTUARY:
LOCATION FACTOR: A wildlife sanctuary could be in most any
location, as long as disturbance from human activity is controlled. Bird habitats would be possible only very large sites in more densely peopled areas, although more study is needed to determine specific size factors (see Goode and Smart in Bradshaw et al.).
LOT SIZE: A site of any size can be a wildlife sanctuary, but size does limit the variety of species. Goode and Smart suggest that "it is possible to accommodate a range of different butterfilies, even on a relatively small scale, so long as proper attention is given to the necessary management of appropriate food plants (Goode and Smart in Bradshaw et al. 222). Larger sites, however, are necessary for significant bird habitat. One large area can harbor more species and individuals than many small ones (Laurie 183-4).
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SUN: The particular solar qualities of a wildlife sanctuary
influence the type, not the quality, of habitat(s) on the site.
To achieve maximum wildlife diversity, however, the necessary combination of open, understory, and canopy areas would implicitly result in a mixture of sun and shade. Butterflies prefer full sun or partial shade.
SOIL: The soil should be able to support new plantings to
attract wildlife. The soil with some signs of existing vegetation should be a good indication of the soil condition and type of species which will survive without irrigation. Rubbled sites are a main habitat area in some cities (Henke and Sukopp in Bradshaw et al. 313).
RELIEF: The particular topography of a wildlife sanctuary is
not essential to habitat. Certain landform changes, however, may create more variety of habitat.
VEGETATION: Laurie explains that the most important prerequisite
for wildlife habitat is the vegetation. Specifically the area, structure, and species of composition affect the numbers and diversity of wildlife. Also important is the development of the vertical structure of a woodland, as Spirn alludes to, of field, herb, shrub, and canopy (Laurie 183-4). For butterflies in particular, sheltered areas are important for protection from the wind. Mass plantings of a variety of nectar flowers that will provide continuous bloom readily will attract butterflies to a site. With insects come birds to the area.
WATER: Existing water supply (runoff, rain) presumably should
continue to sustain existing vegetation. Any new plantings, however, will require access to water. Moreover, water on the site, such as rain collected in pools are valuable to wildlife. Even a patch of damp soil is a butterfly attractant.
FENCING: Laurie, Goode and Smart emphasizes that the success
of a wildlife habitat relies on limiting human activity. Fencing can restrict the area from casual trespassing which can disturb seasonal wildlife activities. Besides formal fencing, spiny hedges, ditches, signposting, alternative routes, and designated pathways through the area can serve as effective physical barriers or traffic control (Goode and Smart in Bradshaw et al. 230) .
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UNIQUE FEATURES: Unique features such as a a standing dead tree rock outcrop, or water which can increase the variety of habitats beyond that offered by the vegetation structure are desirable, but not essential.
COMMUNITY INPUT: A urban wildlife sanctuary would benefit from strong support from the community; the residents understanding and interest in the area will help insure the "sanctity" of the area by respecting the necessary restrictions for its success.
USE HAZARDS: Wildlife sanctuaries necessarily restrict human activity. A natural area that must be closed to the public for liability or other reasons, might be appropriate as a wildlife habitat.
DESIGNER ROLE: Goode and Smart suggest that the "provision of appropriate habitats for wildlife is becoming accepted as part of landscape design, but the need for control of people is less well understood. Although the effective management of people is a very significant factor, it is rarely taken into account by landscape designers" (Goode and Smart in Bradshaw et al. 234).
In a urban neighborhood situation, consideration of the "human factor" might best be met by some involvement of the community in the design oF the wildlife sanctuary, determining the level of Interest in, e.g., the educational potential of the site such as the creation of a pond for study of water life or in a butterfly/ insect garden.
SUPPORT DEMAND: If a site is currently a natural area, the cost of its development as a wildlife sanctuary could be low. Necessary improvements such as additional plantings, fencing, and signage would cost accordingly. Direct user fees or on-site fundraising are not applicable funding sources. Financial support of a wildlife sanctuary most likely would come indirectly from grants, donations, or peripheral fundraising at community events.
MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: Timing of necessary management activities, such as mowing, pruning, and weeding is crucial to the survival of the wildlife habitat (Laurie 186-7). Indeed, avoiding formal "park management" is a determining factor in the range of birds in an area (Goode and Smart in Bradshaw et al.
227 )-.
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TENURE: A estimate of two seasonal cycles may be required for
bird species to "discover" and establish themselves on a site (Colorado Division of Wildlife, Steve Bissell, November 1987 interview) although study would be necessary to determine the actual period for birds to colonize a new urban natural area. Insects might colonize more readily as evidenced by their reliable barrages of new vegetable gardens. Besides the interest in the time period to attract wildlife to a temporary wildlife sanctuary, the wildlife, once there, has its own, lifecycle time frame for the sites tenure to accomodate: dissolution of the site in early spring would render emerging insect larvae without food. In January, birds may suffer without the food and cover that attracted them to the site for the winter, depending on other food sources in the area.
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Birdfeeder-and-bath
Transformation of a vacant lot into a "birdfeeder-and-bath" can bring the life and activity of a natural area to a neighborhood without having to make the pretense of being a managed wildlife sanctuary or "ecological habitat." Very ordinary birds may enjoy their daily activities on a site with feeders in trees or on poles and with shallow pools or above-ground birdbaths to attract a variety of common city birds. The project can become a daily hobby of some residents, young and old, who enjoy feeding the birds, supplying them with nesting material, and watching and listening to them. Other residents may simply appreciate the sign of life brought to a previously deserted site.
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for BIRDFEEDER-AND-BATH:
LOCATION FACTOR: A birdfeeder-and-bath could be in most any
location. It is the modified habitat of food, water, and some shelter that will attract common birds that also tolerate some human disturbance.
LOT SIZE: A site of any size can be attractive to common city birds as a feeding station, much as a small backyard can be.
SUN: The solar exposure is not critical to indescriminate
attraction of birds to the site. A mixture of sun and shade, however, would favor seasonal activities for both the people and birds enjoying the site.
SOIL: The site should have some vegetative cover, indicating
adequate soil for plant growth should there be supplemental plantings attractive to birds or other plantings to create a setting for the birdfeeder-and-bath.
RELIEF: The particular topography of a site is not a factor in
the success of a birdfeeder-and-bath. Natural bowls to collect water, however, can supplement or substitute for manmade bird baths.
VEGETATION: There should be some vegetation to provide cover
and natural food source for the birds and to create an aesthetic setting for bird watching. Ideally, shrubs and trees provide the best refuge for the birds. Such vegetation adjacent to the site with a more open, flower garden design approach on-site, with
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birdfeeders on posts and baths in the planting beds could create a sufficient and manageable habitat for both birds and people. Supplemental planting selections, whether herbaceous or woody, should attract the insects or produce the seeds and berries birds eat.
WATER: Existing water supply (runoff, rain) presumably should
continue to sustain existing vegetation. Any new plantings, however, will require access to water. Moreover, periodic access to water to keep the birdbaths or "natural pools filled is important to both the birds and to the people enjoying their antics.
FENCING: Fencing is not important to the birdfeeder-and-bath.
The main menace to the site would be cats, for which no fence would be effective. If ill-natured human activities such as sniping or vandalism become a problem, the site may benefit from "privatising" with a fence or hedge, but ideally the site should be the neighborhoods backyard of birds.
UNIQUE FEATURES: Unique features such as a a standing dead tree, structure or areas which collect water can increase the options of birdfeeders and birdbaths beyond that offered by the vegetation and manmade amenities, but are not essential.
COMMUNITY INPUT: The development of a birdfeeder-and-bath should be of interest to the immediate residents, those who are there to enjoy it and must maintain the site to attract birds. A small group of individuals will suffice, if there is no determined opposition from the others (e.g., "birds are too dirty").
USE HAZARDS: The human use of a birdfeeder-and-bath site would be limited to passive activity with minimal physical hazards associated with filling the feeders and baths.
DESIGNER ROLE: An designer of the birdfeeder-and-bath should consider all factors influencing the site development, including the type of birds desirable to attract. Additionally, the designer, or other consultant, could serve as a resource in the communitys design and construction of more ambitious or unique birdfeeders and birdbath features.
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SUPPORT DEMAND: Costs to develop a birdfeeder-and-bath include materials for birdfeeders and birdbaths and purchase of birdseed. Supplemental plantings would cost accordingly. Some costs might be defrayed directly by donations of materials and birdseed from those individuals dedicated to the site. Annual birdseed sales have proved profitable for park-interest groups in New Haven, Connecticut. Additionally grants, donations, or peripheral fundraising at community events.
MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: To keep birds attracted to the area, birdseed and water must be in steady supply. If provided for into the winter months, the birds will become dependent on the site for a steady supply food until spring. While filling feeders and baths is not time consuming, it is a necessary regular task much like caring for any house pet.
TENURE: If there are birds in the neighborhood at all, the
birdfeeder-and-bath will be active from the onset. Birdfeeders and birdbaths can be relocated should the site be condemned for construction. As cautioned before, however, it is important that once food is provided birds in the winter, the supply must continue until spring.
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ART SPACES
DEFINITION
Vacant land can be a canvas for environmental art: earthworks, public sculpture, site art, conceptual art, landscape sculpture ("Plink Plonk" 298). Robert Morris explains that
So long as mindless city planning prevails, and bureaucratic architecture yearns for decor, there will be dumb sculpture burdening plazas, and greenswards and siteworks will have to find dumps, swamps, gravel pits, and other industrially ravaged pieces of the landscape, if they are to be located near urban centers. Personally, I prefer such wasted areas to those numbing plazas and absurd sculpture gardens (Morris 16).
Earth art materials are typically easily manipulated, commonplace, flexible, heavily textured, such as air, alcohol, ashes, bamboo, candies, chalk, charcoal, sown, dust, earth, excelsior, felt, fire, flares, flock, foam, graphite, grease, hay, ice, lead, mercury, mineral oil, moss, rocks, rope, rubber, sand sawdust, seeds, slate, snow, steel wool, string, tar, twigs, twine, water, wax (Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art 5-6). The focus is on the physical, not the geometric properties and on time and process. "The traditional line between art and life has become blurred. We are encouraged to draw the distinction between the two afresh" (Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art 7).
CONTRIBUTION
Traditionally, art provides beauty. Applied to vacant land, art can improve the appearance, instill meaning, create an image, and provide an outlet for individual and community expression in a neighborhood:
Tractis, Miss, Aycock, Singer, Asconti, Fleishner,
Irwin, Holt, and others.... have worked frequently in non-spectacular and sometimes dense urban sites with extremely varied formal and thematic approaches.
Such work... presents a sharper critical edge than that which is more pastoral and remote. It is also more public in the literal, aesthetic, and social senses....[T]here is something especially relevant to and open for the public in these projects, that
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they defend an aggressive, non-eiitist, even antimuseum stance, while at the same time counting as advanced art (Morris 14-15).
Socrates Sculpture Garden along the East River reveals the more tangible benefits of public art. Inspiration of the renowned sculptor Mark Di Suvero, the project is the largest sculpture garden in New York City. Twelve massive sculptures of varying materials, including dirt and plants found on the site, grace the "rough and real outdoor space." The participating sculptors have invited neighborhood residents of a high-rise, low-income apartments near the garden to help develop the site. Those working on the site up to full-time rake, hoe and bail chips at five to seven dollars an hour. The youth find the site at once peaceful and exciting, giving them "more to do than be in trouble 'on the outside." Even those residents who admit they do not "appreciate" the art, enjoy the transformation of the former dump site into something "nice, interesting." Land values have risen in the area which has enjoyed the far-reaching popularity of the garden. While the sculptors are renting the site for only $1 each year, they hope the site will remain as a "neighborhood park" in process (McPherson).
APPROACH
Art outdoors implicitly has a large, varied audience. The motive and mechanism for the art, likewise, varies. In general, the use of vacant land for art space is particularly appropriate for very short-tenured properties. Some art work could incorporate other uses, such as play and social gatherings. Indeed, "it is the other places in our cities, those hitherto neglected open spaces that can be combined with new activities--new combinations of the traditional outdoor activities with untraditional new locations--that will make the most exciting innovative spaces today" (Cooper-Hewitt 45).
Morris, however, clarifies the artists moral and aesthetic position of the artist: "...it would pehaps be a misguided assumption to suppose that artists hired to work in industrially blasted landscapes would necessarily and invariably choose to convert such sites into idyllic and reassuring places, thereby socially redeeming those who wasted the landscape in the first place" (Morris 16).
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The broaching of the notions of social responsibility and public participation in environmental art introduces a new concept of spectator. Christo, for example, considers the social world as part of the art work itself (Sonfist 192-3). Sonfist himself argues that art has a moral responsibility; artists are leaders and should, therefore, deal with social issues (Sonfist 196). In his work Time Landscape (1965-1978), Sonfist worked through community groups, local politicians, real estate interests, several arms of city government, art patrons and their lawyers to create what he describes as "an example of the artwork as a major urban design plan" (Sonfist 87, 89).
Nancy Holt expands the definition of public sculptor even further (Sonfist 89). Because of inavoidable real estate issues, the artist becomes a "site planning consultant" in a real estate venture: "an art that deals with the economic system on its own
terms rather than insulating itself in the simple shadow economy of the art world."
William C. Lipke argues definitively that "once the transition to a socially integrated art is complete [rather than remaining something distinct and remote from other activities], we may see the full implementation of the art impulse in an advanced technological society." Environmental art, John Cage adds, "confuses the difference between Art and Life, just as it diminishes the distinctions between space and time" (Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art 20).
To some extent, in environmental art the artist has greater control over his artistic output by producing in the exhibit area itself. As the artists above suggest, the "area itself" is a complex entity:
In an age when many artists take umbrage at being asked to move beyond their own private language or vision, one can understand, perhaps even sympathize, with those artists who are unprepared to shed their own cultural baggage and respond to a problem that has been partly defined for them by the community... and yet failure to do this often reveals an ignorance too profound to be remedied by individual artistic intuition.
The forces influencing a project should not inhibit the artists cultural creativity, but challenge it (Fleming and von Tscharner 208) .
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Willoughby Sharp challenges that "earth art calls for the radical reorganization of our natural environment; it offers the possibility of mitigating mans alienation from nature. While the new sculptor is still thinking esthetically, his concerns and techniques are increasingly becoming those of the environmental manager, the urban planner, the architect, the civil engineer, and the cultural anthropologist." Art no longer is a self-sufficient entity, but rather one with a more significant relationship with the viewer and component parts of her or his environment (Sharp 13).
RESOURCES FOR DENVER Art galleries Art schools Local artists
Metropolitan Denver Arts Alliance 1616 Glenarm Place Denver, Colorado 80202
Chicano Humanities and Arts Council 1535 Platte
Denver, Colorado 80202
Patten Institute for the Arts Business and Arts Council 938 Bannock
Denver, Colorado 80204
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DESIGN ideas for art spaces
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Art Yard/Sculpture Garden
It is important for sculpture to be sited, not commercially displayed or "plonk plunk-plopped" down ("Plink Plonk" 289-99). "The placement of independently created, large-scale sculpture in open spaces often works much better than officially sponsored works" for unknown reasons (Cooper-Hewitt 87). Indeed, the notion of public art challenges the structure of the traditional art gallery. Museums must devise new ways to deal with environmental art pieces (Sonfist 91).
Denvers United Bank has pioneered a sculpture garden on a piece of its own vacant property at 18th and Grant Streets. The project is a model for the community in its promotion of temporary uses of vacant lots to improve the neighborhoods image (Denver Planning Office, Dennis Swane, November 1987 interview). Socrates Sculpture Park in New York City is an example of a public art project initiated by artists which inspired the residents of the neighborhood to participate in its creation (McPherson).
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for ART YARD/SCULPTURE GARDEN:
LOCATION FACTOR: To have the largest audience, a public art
yard or sculpture garden should be in an area with passersby. Active areas, moreover, will discourage vandalism that could plague a more isolated site.
LOT SIZE: Any size lot can accomodate some form of art or sculpture. The particular size of the lot, however, may be an essential factor in the type and experience of that art.
SUN: The solar exposure is a factor only if critical to the
appearance and experience of the art on the site. An artist creating work for a particular site might want to consider the sun and shade patterns accordingly.
SOIL: The soil condition virtually could be ignored in creating
an art yard or sculpture garden if landscape plantings are not part of the design scheme. A site with large rubble or dump items might need clearing.
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RELIEF: The particular topography of a site is not a factor in
the success of an art yard or sculpture garden. Variations in the terrain, however, could provide opportunities for unique display of art.
VEGETATION: Vegetation need not be a factor in the outdoor
display of art or sculpture. Plantings might complement the composition of the yard or garden, and may or may not be a dominant element.
WATER: Water is insignificant factor for a art yard or sculpture
garden.
FENCING: Fencing is important if the art on the site needs to
be secured at anytime.
UNIQUE FEATURES: Unique features are not necessary to the design of an art yard or sculpture garden. Indeed, special elements might conflict with the focus of the site--art.
COMMUNITY INPUT: No community input is essential to the creation of an art yard or sculpture garden. Nonetheless, after the "opening," there would be public comment which might be the most positive if residents were aware of the project. With Socrates Sculpture Park, for example, community involvement evolved with the site as the artists worked "in residence"--the residents adopted the site as there own.
USE HAZARDS: An art yard or sculpture garden would be typically a passive use with minimal physical hazards associated with potential injuries on the art pieces themselves. Limiting access to the site might alleviate some vulnerability.
DESIGNER ROLE: The designer could be exclusively the artist(s) who use the art yard or sculpture garden as a setting for public art.
SUPPORT DEMAND: The greatest cost in developing an art yard or sculpture park would be the expense of creating the art itself. Direct user fees or on-site fundraising are not applicable funding sources. Financial support of an art yard or sculpture park most likely would come indirectly from cultural grants or corporate donations.
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MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: An art yard or sculpture garden could require minimal maintenance, depending on the amount of plantings in its design.
TENURE: One of the most short-term uses of a vacant lot might
be as a site for art for which there is a tradition of temporary exhibition.
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Murals
Blank walls are often eyesores created by the demolition of an adjacent building. An individual or group may be inspired to do murals to improve the appearance of the walls. On the one hand, the unattractiveness of the vacant lot is effectively disguised by the more dominant, eye-catching mural. On the other hand, community gardeners on a vacant lot may look to the wall as an opportunity to "decorate" their garden (e.g. Clinton Community Garden, New York City).
The creation of murals can be approach as "high art" or as "communal art." City Walls, Inc. in New York City, from 1968 on had the goal "to enhance the visual environment, to create imaginative transformations, and to give a sense of pleasure and delight." City Art Workshop, also in New York, promoted participatory wall art within neighborhoods (Cooper-Hewitt 87). New Haven, Cincinnati, and some other cities have enjoyed similar public art pieces generated from the artist community or the residents themselves.
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for MURALS:
LOCATION FACTOR: For the most impact and community enjoyment of the mural, the location should be in an area with passersby. Active areas, moreover, will discourage graffiti that could might plague a more isolated site.
LOT SIZE: Any size lot could feature a mural. Larger sites might afford more visibility of the mural.
SUN: The solar exposure is a factor only if critical to the
appearance and experience of the mural. An artist creating work for a particular site might want to consider the sun and shade patterns accordingly.
SOIL: The soil condition could be ignored in creating a mural
if landscape plantings on the site itself are not part of the design scheme. A site with large rubble or dump items might need clearing to not detract from the impact of the mural.
RELIEF: The particular topography of a site is not a factor in
the success of a mural, although, the terrain of the site might
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influence the composition of the mural should it relate to its context (e.g. trompe l'oeil).
VEGETATION: Vegetation need not be a factor in the creation of
a mural, although, plantings might complement the composition of the mural.
WATER: Water is insignificant factor for a mural.
FENCING: Fencing is irrelevant to a mural on a wall.
UNIQUE FEATURES: Essential to the creation of a mural on a vacant lot is adjacency to a wall for which there is permission to paint (sculpt, collage, etc.).
COMMUNITY INPUT: No community input is essential to the creation of a mural. Residents acceptance of the mural, nonetheless, can help minimize the occurrence of graffiti.
Indeed, the creation of the mural could be entirely a community ef fort.
USE HAZARDS: A mural has no inherent liability risks beyond those related to its execution on the wall.
DESIGNER ROLE: The designer could be exclusively the artist(s) of the mural. Conversely, the mural could be an independent community effort, although some consultation is important regarding the best materials and technique for the project to maximize the success of the "resident artists" efforts.
SUPPORT DEMAND: The greatest cost in creating a mural would be the expense of a professional artist. If it is a community art project, the cost of the mural would be the expense of quality materials and tools. Financial support of a professional artists mural most likely would come indirectly from cultural grants or corporate donations. Possibly participating "resident artists" for a community mural would pay a materials fee to participate.
MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: A mural must be redone periodically, depending on the quality of surface and mural medium. There is no routine maintenance, however. Graffiti should be removed as soon as discovered.
TENURE: A mural can be a short-term improvement of a vacant lot.
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Earthworks
Earthwork may be able to take advantage of the future use of a vacant property for construction. Modification of the excavation for a building foundation could create dynamic landform. Such earthwork configurations function as exciting bike trails, storm water detention areas, or an amphitheater.
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for EARTHWORKS:
LOCATION FACTOR: For the most impact and community enjoyment of the earthwork, the location should be in an area with passersby. Isolated areas, however, could lend themselves to reflective public art that cannot be vandalized.
LOT SIZE: Any size lot can accomodate some form of earthwork.
SUN: The solar exposure is a factor only if critical to the
appearance and experience of the earthwork. An artist creating work for a particular site might want to consider the sun and shade patterns accordingly.
SOIL: The soil condition is more of a factor in its malleability
than its fertility.
RELIEF: The particular topography of a site is not a critical to
the creation of an earthwork, although existing terrain might influence the design of the project.
VEGETATION: Vegetation need not be a factor in earthworks.
Plantings might complement the composition of the yard or garden, and may or may not be a dominant element.
WATER: Water is need not be a significant factor for an
earthwork, although it might be incorporated into the design were it available or present on the site.
FENCING: As earthworks are reformation of the terrain, they
are not traditionally destructable, hence, the security of fencing is not relevant. If liability must restrict activity on the site, however, fencing is required.
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I
UNIQUE FEATURES: Unique features are not necessary to the design of an earthwork. The project becomes the unique feature of the site.
COMMUNITY INPUT: No community input is essential to the creation of an earthwork.
USE HAZARDS: An earthwork site could be limited to visual use only. Otherwise, the site could enjoy both active and passive use, depending on the particular form and intent of the design.
DESIGNER ROLE: The designer could be exclusively the environmental artist.
SUPPORT DEMAND: The greatest cost in creating an earthwork would be the expense of a professional artist. If it is a community project, the cost of the mural would be the expense of heavy earthmoving equipment and materials for revegetation.
Direct user fees or on-site fundraising are not applicable funding sources. Financial support of a professional artists earthwork project most likely would come indirectly from cultural grants or corporate donations. The site might lend itself to hosting neighborhood fairs which can be fundraising events.
MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: Earthworks require minimal maintenance, depending on the amount of plantings in its design.
TENURE: A short-tenured vacant lot could justify an earthwork
project, particularly if the design incorporated future earthmoving required for development, e.g. foundation excavation modified into an amphitheater or dirt bike course.

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I


Site and Conceptual Art
Site art derives form from the locations influences. Conceptual art is the opposite ("Plink Plonk" 298). The distinctive qualities of a vacant property may inspire exciting visions for the land in site art. Likewise, an especially level, featureless, insignificant parcel may be an ideal white canvas for purely "conceptual expression.
Site artist Anna Valentina Murch created Staged Garden on a 6,000 square-foot vacant lot as part of an exploration by San Francisco artists of the potential for temporary art installations specific to such sites ("A Study in Light and Shadow" 68-9). Murch transformed the structural remains on the site into symbolic theater forms with simple materials and lighting. A seed planting of wildflowers was to show the ability of a site to reclaim itself.
Conceptual artist Agnes Denes transformed two acres of land six blocks from the World Trade Center into a wheat field ("Amber Waves of Grime" 63). The site, the future location of Battery Park City, yielded 6 bushels of spring wheat with the efforts of sixty paid and volunteer assistants and a 510,000 grant. Denes' idea was to design "an intrusion of the country into the metropolis, the worlds richest real estate. To grow a wheat field on it, seemingly such a waste of precious space, is to create a powerful paradox: the congestion of the city of competence, sophistication and crime against the open fields and unspoiled farm lands" with their wealth of insects and smells.
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for SITE AND CONCEPTUAL ART:
LOCATION FACTOR: To have the largest audience, a site or
conceptual art project should be in an area with passersby.
Active areas, moreover, will discourage vandalism that could be problematic on a more isolated site; less vulnerable designs, however, might be most appropriate in locations "off the beaten path" as unique neighborhood character attractions.
LOT SIZE: Any size lot can accomodate some form of site or conceptual art.
SUN: The solar exposure is a factor only if critical to the appearance and experience of the site. An artist creating a
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design for a particular site might want to consider the sun and shade patterns accordingly.
SOIL: The soil condition will have some bearing on the kind of
plant materials in the design of site or conceptual art.
RELIEF: The particular topography of a site is an influence on
the design of site art, as an element with which to contend in composition. Variations in the terrain could provide opportunities for both approaches.
VEGETATION: The particular vegetation is not necessarily
relevant to the success or failure of the site or conceptual art project. Vegetation, however, is likely a factor in the design of site art.
WATER: Water is not inherently required for site or conceptual
art.
FENCING: Fencing is important if elements on the site need to
be secured at anytime.
UNIQUE FEATURES: Unique features are not essential to the design of site or conceptual art. Existing structures or other distinctive elements, however, could provide opportunities for both approaches.
COMMUNITY INPUT: No community input is essential to the creation of a site or conceptual art piece. Nonetheless, some awareness by the residents as the project is "in process" could be an important experience of and influence on design and would help insure the community acceptance and appreciation of the project after completion.
USE HAZARDS: A site or conceptual art site could be limited to visual use only. Otherwise, the site could enjoy both active and passive use, depending on the particular form and intent of the design.
DESIGNER ROLE: The designer could be exclusively the environmental artist.
SUPPORT DEMAND: The greatest cost in developing a site or conceptual art piece would be the expense of artist and his or
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Landscape Sculpture
Combining earthwork, sculpture, and site art into "landscape sculpture" can transform vacant land into an integral part of the urban fabric, especially if is a participatory space such as a playground, the neighborhood "square", or the like.
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for LANDSCAPE SCULPTURE:
LOCATION FACTOR: To have the largest audience, a landscape
sculpture project should be in an area with passersby. Active areas, moreover, will discourage vandalism that could be problematic on a more isolated site. Less vulnerable designs, however, might be most appropriate in locations "off the beaten path" as unique neighborhood character attractions.
LOT SIZE: Any size lot can accomodate some form of landscape sculpture.
SUN: The solar exposure is a factor only if critical to the
appearance and experience of the site. An artist creating landscape sculpture on particular site might want to consider the sun and shade patterns accordingly.
SOIL: The soil condition will have some bearing on the kind of
plant materials in the design of landscape sculpture.
RELIEF: The particular topography of a site is an influence on
the design of landscape sculpture. Variations in the terrain could provide opportunities for dynamic design that incorporates landform, sculpture, and other features of the site.
VEGETATION: The particular vegetation is not necessarily
relevant to the success or failure of the landscape sculpture. Vegetation, however, is likely a factor in the project design.
WATER: Water is not inherently required for landscape
sculpture. Water features, however, are can be attractive elements in a participatory space.
FENCING: Fencing is important if elements on the site need to
be secured at anytime.
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I
I
-
UNIQUE FEATURES: Unique features are not essential to the design of landscape sculpture. Existing structures or other distinctive elements, however, could provide design opportunities.
COMMUNITY INPUT: No community input is essential to the creation of landscape sculpture. Nonetheless, some awareness by the residents as the project is "in process" could be an important experience of and influence on design and would help insure the community acceptance and appreciation of the project after completion.
USE HAZARDS: A landscape sculpture site could be limited to visual use only. Otherwise, the site could enjoy both active and passive use, depending on the particular form and intent of the design.
DESIGNER ROLE: The designer could be exclusively the environmental artist.
SUPPORT DEMAND: The greatest cost in developing a landscape sculpture garden would be the expense of artist and his or her work. Direct user fees or on-site fundraising are not applicable funding sources. Financial support of a landscape sculpture project most likely would come indirectly from cultural grants or corporate donations.
MAINTENANCE: Landscape sculpture projects could vary from
being literally no maintenance to very high maintenance. The presence of plant materials suggests that some, minimal maintenance would be involved. Depending on their materials, man-made elements would require periodic maintenance or repair.
TENURE: If known, the short-tenure of a vacant lot could
inspire the particular design development of a landscape sculpture art project. Indeed, the "temporary exhibition" would be in the tradition of an art installation.
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GARDENS
DEFINITION
The first human settlements emerged from the benefits of cultivating plants (Choldin 68). Today, gardening is the most popular hobby in the United States (The Gallup Organization, Inc. 26). Whether as ornamental horticulture or urban agriculture, gardens are the "green" that make cities habitable. "Gardens are nouns, places created and experienced.... But 'garden*is also a verb. It is an action, a craft, a way of life as well as leisure." Some of these garden activities are political activities as well: "squatting on vacant urban wastelands,
community organizing, the instilling of cooperation and confidence, and getting city hall to act or, more often, not to act" (Helphand 33).
CONTRIBUTION
Gardening can provide horticulture therapy, formal or informal, for every ailment of mind and body. It is a proven social activity that promotes community pride, self-reliance, and resource conservation (United States Office of Consumer Affairs 47 ) .
APPROACH
Particularly with gardens, the ecology of the land is a critical factor. Compact soil with low organic content is a common characteristic of vacant land, especially those sites that have become parking sites and short cuts. The rare site that has been undisturbed since demolition (or has never been built on), however, can be like a fallow field which has had a chance to develop a rich layer of humus. Besides soil, sun exposure and a water source are important environmental considerations.
No less critical, however, is existence of strong neighborhood interest and, if necessary, contact with local garden organizations, such as Denver Urban Gardens to help with site development and legal logistics. The larger garden organization can often facilitate water acquisition, soil preparation and improvement, etc.
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E
Often the constraints of a vacant lot can guide the design of a unique site. For example, a site lacking the "required" six hours each day of sun, but that is otherwise appropriate, can become a lush, shadier garden. Raised beds can overcome incorrigible soil. In short, there are ideals for different gardens--a vegetable gardens being the most particular--but, depending on the neighborhood residents' interest and commitment, most any site can become a garden.
E
I
I
RESOURCES FOR DENVER
Denver Urban Gardens
1425 Fillmore
Denver, Colorado 80206
Denver Urban Community Garden Program Cooperative Extension Service 1700 S. Holly Denver, Colorado 80222
The Park People 715 S. Franklin Denver, Colorado 80209
Denver Urban Forest 1300 E. Virginia Denver, Colorado 80209
Office of City Forestry 1300 E. Virginia Denver, Colorado 80209
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DESIGN IDEAS FOR GARDENS
V1EVIMG GARDEN, 'THE GARDEN OF EDEN*

Community Garden
Community gardens can "provide a focus for community interest ...where there are few gardens and a transitory population." Garden related activities offer ecological, social and economic benefits; there are even employment opportunities, from garden hands to market gardeners (Davidson and MacEwen 144). Company-sponsored gardens throughout the United States offer employees the rewards of community gardening and the company improved public relations and employee morale (see Sommers Theory G).
One of the largest obstacles to successful community gardens is the difficulty in securing long-term use of land. Yet, Sommers argues, "long-term use of a community garden is the most important ingredient for success. Many private and public landowners see community gardens as a great interim use for their land" (Sommers Community 40). Monetary, labor, and emotional investment is undermined by limited leases. Likewise, long-term control helps to strengthen the organization of gardeners and, in turn, increases the success of the garden itself.
Until local authorities recognize the value of community gardens, public land offers little more security than private property. Indeed, "the community garden has often become a political battleground pitting a landless urban 'peasantry' against the political and real estate 'elite.* The conflict is over concepts of ownership--the possessiveness that comes from personal invesment of time, sweat and money versus legal rights--for few community gardeners hold title to the lands they tend" (Helphand 33) .
Nonetheless, there are many success stories of community gardens throughout the country which have served gardeners well, despite the odds (see Sommers Community). In Syracuse, New York, the municipal sponsored "Adopt-a-Lot" program has leased from year to year seventy-six city-owned lots at no cost, donated fertilizer and seeds, arranged tilling services and Extension Service classes for city residents. Begun in 1972, the program has grown to be so popular that the City regrets it has no more land to offer gardeners (Sommers Community 13).
Temporary community gardens on vacant lots also exist in Denver. A1 Sandoval, a resident of Lincoln Park, worked with the Mennonite Urban Ministry and Lincoln Park South Housing
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Development to convert a vacant lot, created by a building demolition, into a productive garden. The five year-old garden at 10th and Mariposa is one of forty community gardens located on approximately forty acres of public, non-profit, or private property in Denver. An estimate of over 500 gardeners participate in the Cooperative Extension Services Denver Urban Community Garden Program.
Denver Urban Gardens (D.U.G.), a non-profit organization dedicated to securing long-term access to open space for community gardens and recreational use, has successfully purchased two garden sites and have a five-year lease from the City on a third. The gradual development of the leased site has included terraced landscape timbers to create a tot-lot in addition to the gardens, new sidewalk and a water tap (Denver Urban Gardens, 1987 1).
The range of concerns of community gardens and their design development on vacant lots includes: improving compact soil that is often low in organic matter, providing quick barriers from air and noise pollution from adjacent streets, acquiring convenient water sources.
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for COMMUNITY GARDEN:
LOCATION FACTOR: Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) prefers developing sites in higher density areas (Denver Urban Gardens, 1988 6). In any case, a community garden should be an integral part of the neighborhood. The sites proximity to gardeners homes encourages regular visits to the garden. As a object of pride, the garden contributes to the entire neighborhood. In public view, the garden is less susceptible to vandalism. Sites within 50 feet of major throughfares, however, should be avoided (Spirn 121) .
LOT SIZE: DUG suggests that for a site to be worthwhile developing, it should support at twenty garden-sized plots (e.g., 200 square feet each). Hence, a double lot would provide for 20 such plots and area for common uses, e.g. composting, harvests, etc. (Denver Urban Gardens, 1988 6).
SUN: Six hours of sun each day is a key to success for a community garden. All fruiting vegetables particularly require a
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sunny site. Some shade is desirable, however, for the comfort of the gardeners and some plant varieties.
SOIL: Good soil is important for the success of a community
garden; since soil-building takes many seasons of conscientious hard labor, the better the original soil on the site is, the sooner the garden will produce at its potential. Rubbled soil is not necessarily infertile, although difficult to work. Soil tests will help determine the feasibility of a site for vegetable gardening. Soils with high heavy metal content may need to be limited to growing only fruiting varieties which absorb less of the compounds than leafy vegetables. Once gardeners are commited to the site, addition of organic matter will prove a panacea for most soil ailments.
RELIEF: Level ground typical of most urban vacant lots is
preferable to facilitate soil preparation and even solar exposure. Some variation in terrain, however, could lend character to the site or delineate different use areas (e.g. social area, "back area" for compost bins, etc.).
VEGETATION: As an indicator of soil condition, some existing
vegetation on the community garden site is desirable. Extensive cover of shrubs or trees, however, would need to be removed to allow sunlight and space for garden plots. Some area of shade is desirable as a gardeners relief area from the summer sun.
WATER: Water must be readily available, minimally from a nearby
fire hydrant (Denver Urban Gardens 1988 6) to make the already demanding task of irrigation as easy as possible. Simple surface irrigation via tap and hose will suffice, particularly if the site has very tentative tenure (e.g. one-year lease).
FENCING: Fencing around a community garden site is important
for keeping dogs, cars, and the like out of the site. Any height fencing has some success of deterring potential "trespassers."
UNIQUE FEATURE: Unique features are not inherently critical to a community garden. A shed or other structure, however, would be convenient for tool storage.
COMMUNITY INPUT: By definition, a community garden cannot be without community involvement. The residents of the neighborhood must be not only interested, but active in the garden. Of
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course, not all residents will be community gardeners, but the garden will be most successful with the endorsement of the entire neighborhood. If the garden is the effort of a special interest group, the rest of the neighborhood could be included in a harvest festival, offered gleanings from the garden, or like activities.
USE HAZARDS: Adequate liability coverage is essential on any site where there are activities involving tool use and obstructions (e.g. stakes and strings). Because there are specific users of the site, i.e. the gardeners, safety precautions can be directly stated and enforced.
DESIGNER ROLE: With a community garden, the gardeners know best what they want as far as plot sizes, interest in composting, auxiliary social activities. A professional designer, however, might inspire innovative design approaches and construction techniques, e.g. for raised planting beds, multi-use areas, etc.
SUPPORT DEMAND: The development of a community garden and annual maintenance activities include costs for equipment for soil preparation, site construction, water tap fee, liability, seeds and seedlings, shared tools. Plot fees and on-site fundraising are possible funding sources for a community garden. Additionally, donated materials and labor and collaboration with existing service agencies can offset many of the larger costs. Grants, donations, or peripheral fundraising at community events are other potential sources of income.
MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: A community garden requires not only the routine maintenance of the individual (or communal) plots, but also needs an overseeing effort to insure that the cooperative aspects of the garden project.
TENURE: The priority of DUG is to secure long-term tenure for
community gardens. The organization feels that a minimum five-year lease is necessary to justify the human, material, and financial resources that development of a community garden requires.
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Family Garden
A family garden is merely the use of a site for an individual family, or extended family. The advantage of such a garden over a community garden is the lesser importance of organization and reliance on many peoples interest and labor to assure the ongoing success of the garden.
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for FAMILY GARDEN:
LOCATION FACTOR: A family garden could be in any location that is not too isolated as to risk vandalism that is difficult to mitigate. The sites proximity to gardeners home would encourage regular visits to the garden. If open to public view, the garden can contribute an object of pride for the entire neighborhood and would be less susceptible to vandalism.
Gardeners should avoid, however, sites within 50 feet of major throughfares (Spirn 121).
LOT SIZE: Any size lot would suffice for a family garden, depending on the familys needs.
SUN: Six hours of sun each day is a key to success for a
family garden. All fruiting vegetables particularly require a sunny site. Some shade is desirable, however, for the comfort of the gardeners and some plant varieties.
SOIL: Quality soil is important for the success of a family
garden. Since soil-building takes many seasons of conscientious hard labor, the better the original soil on the site is, the sooner the garden will produce at its potential. Rubbled soil is not necessarily infertile, although difficult to work. Soil tests will help determine the feasibility of a site for vegetable gardening. Soils with high heavy metal content may need to be limited to growing only fruiting varieties which absorb less of the compounds than leafy vegetables. Once gardeners are commited to the site, addition of organic matter will prove a panacea for most soil ailments.
RELIEF: Level ground typical of most urban vacant lots is
preferable to facilitate soil preparation and even solar exposure. Some variation in terrain, however, could lend character to the site or delineate different use areas (e.g. flower garden, "back area" for compost bins, etc.).
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VEGETATION: As an indicator of soil condition, some existing
vegetation on the family garden site is desirable. Extensive cover of shrubs or trees, however, would need to be removed to allow sunlight and space for garden beds. Some area of shade is desirable as a gardeners relief area from the summer sun.
WATER: Water must be readily available to make the already
demanding task of irrigation as easy as possible. Simple surface irrigation via tap and hose will suffice, particularly if the site has very tentative tenure (e.g. one-year lease).
FENCING: fencing around a family garden site is important
for keeping dogs, cars, and the like out of the site. Any height
fencing has some success of deterring potential "trespassers."
UNIQUE FEATURE: Unique features are not inherently critical to a family garden. A shed or other structure, however, would be convenient for tool storage.
COMMUNITY INPUT: A family garden requires no community input. However, inclusion and consideration of the immediate residents in the efforts of the gardene.g. sharing harvests, initiating conversation about the garden and gardening, and keeping the garden attractive to those viewing it from outside the fence--will help establish the garden as a neighborhood "institution" whose well-being becomes the concern of everyone.
USE HAZARDS: Because the family garden is not an active public use, liability could be a simpler agreement issue between the family and the landowner, nonetheless, there are hazards associated with tool use and potential obstacles related to gardening activities.
DESIGNER ROLE: In a sense, the design of the family garden rests with the family, with the family as "independent designer."
SUPPORT DEMAND: The development of a family garden and annual maintenance activities include costs for equipment for soil preparation, any site construction, water tap fee, seeds and seedlings, tools. The costs of a family garden necessarily would be assumed by the family benefiting directly from the garden. Produce sales could help offset the cost of seeds and hand tools.
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MAINTENANCE: A family garden requires the routine maintenance
of any garden. Some coordinating effort may be needed if there are several people working the site.
TENURE: As DUG recommends for community gardens, a family garden
should have a minimum five-year lease on the vacant land to justify the human, material, and financial resources that development of a community garden requires.
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Cutting or Picking Garden
Massed flowers in beds with simple irrigation can provide cut flowers for neighborhood households. Mulch on the beds, such as shredded leaves, layers of lawn clippings can further restrain weeds and maintain moisture. Encourage annuals to reseed.
Their young seedlings the following season become established sooner and, hence, withstand drought stress much better than transplants. Seed harvests can be a resource to encourage residents home landscapes, to perpetuate the cutting garden, and to raise money, if marketed, for additional costs. The Deen City Farm on a formerly derelict site in South London supports over sixty wild and garden flower species; other English city farms breed rare domestic plant and animal species and produce flower seed (Davidson and MacEwen 141). The cutting or picking garden concept could be expanded to being a nursery garden, whereby residents can nurture collectively plants for transplanting to their own gardens (see Sommers Community 106-107).
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for CUTTING OR PICKING GARDEN:
LOCATION FACTOR: A cutting or picking garden could be in any location that is not too isolated as to risk vandalism that is difficult to mitigate. The sites proximity to residents homes would encourage regular visits to the garden. If open to public view, the garden can contribute an object of pride for the entire neighborhood and would be less susceptible to vandalism.
LOT SIZE: Any size lot would suffice for a cutting or picking garden assuming other factors are met.
SUN: The majority of showy cut-flower varieties require
moderate to full sun. As with soil condition, however, certain varieties will flourish in particular exposures.
SOIL: Quality soil is important for the success of a cutting
or picking garden. Since soil-building takes many seasons of conscientious hard labor, the better the original soil on the site is, the sooner the garden will produce at its potential, rubbled soil is not necessarily infertile, although difficult to work. Soil tests will help determine the feasibility of a site for cultivating particular plants. Flower varieties will flourish in soil appropriate for their cultivation.
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RELIEF: Level ground typical of most urban vacant lots is
preferable to facilitate soil preparation and even solar exposure. Some variation in terrain, however, could influence the design of the flower beds.
VEGETATION: As an indicator of soil condition, some existing
vegetation on the cutting or picking garden site is desirable. Extensive cover of shrubs or trees, however, may need to be removed to allow sunlight and space for flower beds. Some area of shade might be desirable as a gardeners relief area from the summer sun.
WATER: Water must be available to make the already demanding task of irrigation as easy as possible. As some flower varieties are somewhat drought tolerant and can be cultivated in mulched mass plantings to conserve water the water source may be less accessible, e.g. the corner fire hydrant. Again, the varieties to be grown should be selected accordingly.
FENCING: Fencing around a cutting or picking garden is most
important for keeping dogs and cars out of the site. As a public source of cut flowers, however, the garden should be accessible. Raised beds might make fencing unneccessary.
UNIQUE FEATURE: Unique features are not inherently critical to a cutting or picking garden.
COMMUNITY INPUT: A cutting or picking garden must have both community interest in tending and in harvesting the garden. As the maintenance is significantly less than for vegetable gardens, there would not need to be as much active involvement in the routine activities.
USE HAZARDS: The main public activities in a cutting or picking garden are generally not related to tool use, hence the liability hazards are less than those in a community garden.
For the few who are regularly maintaining the site safety precautions can be directly stated and enforced.
DESIGNER ROLE: The design of the cutting or picking garden could be professionally done, as much as a visual garden (see below) as a picking one. The garden also could be strictly a produqtion garden for transplanting into residents personal gardens.
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SUPPORT DEMAND: The development of a cutting or picking garden and maintenance activities include costs for equipment for soil preparation, any site construction, water tap fee, seeds/bulbs and annual/perennial seedlings, tools, the funds for a cutting or picking garden could come directly from fees to pick the garden and cut-flower sales. Additionally, local garden clubs or other interest group might donate starter plants and other materials or services.
MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: A cutting or picking garden requires the some routine maintenance. With mass planting, mulching, and lower water-demanding varieties, the maintenance demand would decrease. Some coordinating efforts would be needed.
TENURE: As some flower varieties will flourish in soil that is
not adequate for full vegetable production, the cutting or picking garden could be very productive from the onset. Nonetheless, the human, material, and financial investment in the garden would demand at least a two or three year tenure.
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Viewing Garden
A garden strictly for viewing is especially appropriate for a site where liability responsibility is not compatible with public access.
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for VIEWING GARDEN:
LOCATION FACTOR: A viewing garden should be in a very visible location to maximize its impact on the neighborhoods appearance to outsiders and to the majority of its residents.
LOT SIZE: Any size lot would suffice for a viewing garden.
SUN: A viewing garden could be in full sun or full shade. Some
sun, however, would allow for more variety of plant materials.
SOIL: Soil condition is important to the success of a viewing
garden. Because the viewing garden, however, does not have to produce vegetables or specifically cut-flowers, the design and plant selection can be more "forgiving" and adapt to the existing condition accordingly.
RELIEF: Some relief on the site would add interest to the
viewing garden, but is not essential.
VEGETATION: As an indicator of soil condition, some existing
vegetation on the viewing garden site is desirable. Extensive cover of shrubs or trees could be incorporated into the design of the garden, thus minimizing the investment in additional plant materials.
WATER: Water should be available to at least facilitate the
establishment of the viewing garden. As with soil adaptation, plant selection should reflect the water availability.
FENCING: To limit the garden as a viewing garden only, a fence
is imperative (and possibly a sign explaining why) as well as for keeping dogs and cars out of the site.
UNIQUE FEATURE: Unique features are not inherently critical to a viewing garden, but would provide additional visual interest on the site.
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COMMUNITY INPUT: No community input is essential for the development of a viewing garden.
USE LIABILITY: As a viewing garden would be limited exclusively to public visual use, except for the activities of those maintaining the site, the liability concern would be minimal.
DESIGNER ROLE: The design of the viewing garden could be professionally done.
SUPPORT DEMAND: The development of a visual garden and maintenance activities include costs for equipment for soil preparation, any site construction, and plant materials. The funds for a viewing garden would rely on donations, or community grants. Additionally, local garden clubs or other interest group might donate starter plants and other materials or services.
MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: A viewing garden requires the some routine maintenance. With mass planting, mulching, and lower water-demanding varieties, the maintenance demand would decrease.
TENURE: A common estimate for a landscape design to mature is
three years. Consideration, therefore, must be given to planting the most mature plants possible to maximize the potentially short tenure of the project.
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Herb Garden
An herb garden is a type of picking garden, whereby neighborhood residents share the benefits of a sunny site for the cultivatio of herbs. Due to the high cost of herbs in the grocery, an herb garden would be a genuine luxury in any neighborhood and a source of community pride and focus.
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for HERB GARDEN:
LOCATION FACTOR: An herb garden could be in any location that is not too isolated as to risk vandalism that is difficult to mitigate. The site's proximity to residents homes would encourage regular visits to the garden. If open to public view, the garden can contribute an object of pride for the entire neighborhood and would be less susceptible to vandalism. As the herbs are for human consumption, sites within 50 feet of major throughfares should be avoided.
LOT SIZE: Any size lot would suffice for an herb garden assuming other factors are met.
SUN: The majority of herbs rely on full sun to develop their
strong aromas and flavors.
SOIL: Soil condition is an important factor for the success of
an herb garden. Many herbs flourish in less fertile soils than other plants. Existing rubble on a site could lend itself to the creation of a rock-type garden preferred by some heat-loving herbs. Soil with high heavy metal content should be avoided as the leafy herbs are for consumption.
RELIEF: Level ground typical of most urban vacant lots is
preferable to facilitate soil preparation and even solar exposure. Some variation in terrain, however, could influence the design of the herb garden.
VEGETATION: As an indicator of soil condition, some existing
vegetation on the herb garden site is desirable. Extensive cover of shrubs or trees, however, may need to be removed to allow sunlight and space for the herbs.
WATER: Water should be available to facilitate the establishment
of the herb garden and to provide periodic watering through the
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season. Many herb varieties are somewhat drought tolerant and can be cultivated in mulched mass plantings to conserve water the water source may be less accessible, e.g. the corner fire hydrant. Again, the varieties to be grown should be selected accordingly.
FENCING: Fencing around an herb garden is most important for
keeping dogs and cars out of the site. As a public source of fresh herbs, however, the garden should be accessible. Raised beds might make fencing unneccessary, as well as facilitate harvesting.
UNIQUE FEATURE: Unique features are not inherently critical to an herb garden. Rock outcrops, however, would lend themselves to the creation of rock garden-type herb beds.
COMMUNITY INPUT: An herb garden must have both community interest in tending and in harvesting the garden. As the maintenance is significantly less than for vegetable gardens, there would not need to be as much active involvement in the routine activities.
USE HAZARDS: The main public activities in an herb garden are generally not related to tool use, hence the liability hazards are less than those in a community garden. For the few who are regularly maintaining the site safety precautions can be directly stated and enforced.
DESIGNER ROLE: The design of the herb garden could be professionally done, as much as a visual garden (see above) as an herb garden. The garden also could be strictly a production garden for transplants into residents personal gardens.
SUPPORT DEMAND: The development of an herb garden and maintenance activities include costs for equipment for soil preparation, any site construction, seeds and seedlings, tools. The funds for an herb garden could come directly from fees to pick the garden and herb sales. Additionally, local garden clubs or other interest group might donate starter plants and other materials or services.
MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: An herb garden requires the some routine maintenance. With mass planting, mulching, and low water-demanding varieties, the maintenance demand would decrease.
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Some coordinating efforts would be needed in the maintenance of the project.
TENURE: As some herb varieties will flourish in soil that is
not adequate for full vegetable production, the herb garden could be very productive from the onset. Nonetheless, the human, material, and financial investment in the garden would demand at least a two or three year tenure.
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Dandelion Field
The much maligned dandelion can be a stalwart nutritional and medicinal groundcover. Throughout Europe and Asia, the dandelion has been cultivated as a panacea for a variety of medical ailments. Even in the United States, herbalists recognize some of its healing properties. As foodstuff, dandelion is higher in vitamin A than most herbs, has four times more vitamin C than lettuce, has more iron than spinach, and is rich in potassium.
Its leaves can be steamed or boiled or used fresh in salads. The roots can be roasted into a coffee-like beverage while dandelion wine remains a popular beverage in many parts of the country. Although potentially invasive, the dandelion is touted by organic gardeners as a cover, no-till and perennial crop (see Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, Rodale Press, 1978; Robert Kourik, Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally, Metamorphic Press, 1986).
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for DANDELION FIELD:
LOCATION FACTOR: Because of the invasive nature of dandelions, they should be cultivated in isolated areas where their seeding adjacent land would not be a problem.
LOT SIZE: Any size lot would suffice for a dandelion field.
SUN: A dandelion field will grow in limited shade in hot
climates.
SOIL: Dandelions will thrive in any good soil. Soils with
high levels of heavy metals should be avoided.
RELIEF: Level ground typical of most urban vacant lots is
preferable to facilitate soil preparation and even solar exposure.
VEGETATION: As an indicator of soil condition, some existing
vegetation on a dandelion field site is desirable. Extensive cover of shrubs or trees, however, may need to be removed to allow more sunlight and space for cultivation.
WATER: Water must be available to make the already demanding
task of irrigation as easy as possible as dandelions are not
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particularly drought tolerant. Simple surface irrigation of the site should suffice.
FENCING: Fencing around a dandelion field is not necessary
unless dumping is a problem on the site.
UNIQUE FEATURE: Unique features are not inherently necessart to a dandelion field.
COMMUNITY INPUT: A cutting or picking garden must have the immediate residents understanding and consensus to have a dandelion field due to the controversial invasive nature of the plant.
USE HAZARDS: There need not be any direct public use of the dandelion field unless there are open harvest days which would involve some tool use. Unless the site is uses for more active regular use, liability risk should be minimal.
DESIGNER ROLE: The design of a dandelion field can be the effort of one person with more of an understanding of the cultivation requirements than of formal design.
SUPPORT DEMAND: The cultivation of a dandelion field requires initial soil preparation and seed; a water tap fee would probably be prohibitive. The funds for a dandelion garden could come from direct harvest fees or sale of the crop. Donated seed and soil preparation services might be available.
MAINTENANCE: A dandelion field will be most successful if kept
well-cultivated and free of weeds. Roots are dug in the fall or the second season, washed and dried. The best prevention for invading adjacent property is harvesting flowers, digging out and cultivating the plants regularly.
TENURE: As two full seasons are required before the first
harvest, at least two or three years tenure on the site are necessary.
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Orchard
The orchard is one of the more "permanent interim uses of a vacant lot. Its cultivation requires persistance and patience over the years (see Kourik). The Massachusetts Fruition program provides fruit and nut trees to community groups which have permission to use public land and indicate a commitment to the care of an orchard. Over 7,500 such trees have been planted in fifty communities in the state (Sommers 100).
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for ORCHARD:
LOCATION FACTOR: An orchard could be located in most any location. The spectacle of spring blossoms might be a visual attraction on a busy street or a quiet siting area in the middle of a residential block.
LOT SIZE: A site of any size can be an orchard assuming all other factors are met.
SUN: Full sun is required for maximum production of fruit trees.
SOIL: Sandy loam is generally much preferable over heavy clay
soils for fruit trees, hence, to realize the most productivity from an orchard, soil quality is a critical factor. Compact soil also inhibits growth.
RELIEF: Slope in an orchard effects root growth such that it
must be considered in the spacing of the trees.
VEGETATION: Some existing vegetation on the site might be a good
indicator of soil that is not too compact to support the fruit trees. Dense tree or shrub cover might need to be cleared to increase sun exposure and space for productive plantings. Dwarf fruit trees will produce the most normal-size fruit in the smallest area sooner. Miniature, or genetic dwarf, trees are the most prolific of fruit tree sizes.
WATER: Water must be available to establish new plantings the
first two years and for regular watering throughout the growing season. A surface drip irrigation feeding each tree will suf f ice.
FENCING: Fencing is only necessary if dumping will be a
problem on the site or liability prohibits public trespassing.
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UNIQUE FEATURE: Unique features are not inherently necessary to the creation of an orchard.
COMMUNITY INPUT: Residents knowledge of the orchard project is important to establish a neighborhood respect for the site, e.g. to discourage tree climbing of small trees, to protect fruit from picking before it is ripe.
USE HAZARDS: As the orchard is not an active public use area, liability risks are low. If the site is open to public use, however, there is the possibility of a child falling from a tree or poking an eye.
DESIGNER ROLE: An orchard is design intensive, where most of the effort should be spent studying, planning, and designing before planting (Kourik 139). There are many more factors besides what fruit people want to eat that need to be considered in the creation of a neighborhood orchard.
SUPPORT DEMAND: The highest cost is the initial investment in the trees, irrigation system, and soil preparation. Maintenance will require expenses for such items as sprays, pruning tools. Harvest fees and fruit sales could offset some expenses. Additionally, some support might come from donations or peripheral fundraising at community events.
MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: The planting and maintenance of an orchard depends on the varieties grown. Some are more disease and pest resistant and, therefore, require less routine spraying. Pruning, watering, fertilizing, and harvesting are all mandatory tasks.
TENURE: An orchard may require three seasons before producing
fruit. Due to the investment in plant materials and establishment of the trees, many more years are needed to justify an orchard. Once tenure is up, however, miniature and some dwarf varieties could be transplanted to new homes.
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Woodlot/Mini-forest
A woodlot/mini-forest on a vacant lot can supply firewood to immediate residents when the site is claimed for development.
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for WOODLOT/MINI-FOREST:
LOCATION FACTOR: A woodlot/mini-forest could be in most any location.
LOT SIZE: A site of any size can be a woodlot/mini-forest assuming all other factors are met.
SUN: Most trees prefer full sun for maximum growth.
SOIL: In order for tree seedlings to become established, the
soil should be friable with some nutrients.
RELIEF: Variations in the terrain are not necessary for a
woodlot/mini-forest.
VEGETATION: Some existing vegetation on the site might be a
good indicator of soil that is not too compact to support the new trees. The variety of trees selected to plant should be fast growing, hardy, and relatively disease and pest resistant.
WATER: Water must be available at least to establish new
tree seedlings the first two years. Tree varieties should be selected according to water availability.
FENCING: Fencing is only necessary if dumping will be a
problem on the site or liability prohibits public trespassing.
UNIQUE FEATURE: Unique features are not inherently important to the design of a woodlot/mini-forest.
COMMUNITY INPUT: Community input is not essential to establish a woodlot/mini-forest although residents knowledge of the project can help to establish a neighborhood respect for the site, e.g. to discourage tree climbing of small trees.
USE HAZARDS: As the woodlot/mini-forest is not necessarily an active public use area, liability risks are low. If the site
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is open to public use, such as for nature play, however, there is the possibility of a child falling from a tree or poking an eye.
DESIGNER ROLE: The design of a woodlot/raini-forest above all requires proper site assessment and species selection.
SUPPORT DEMAND: The highest cost is the initial investment in the trees, and soil preparation. Eventually harvest fees and firewood sales would offset some expenses; in the interim, additional support might come from donations of tree seedlings (e.g. Forest Service).
MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: Once the tree seedlings are planted, they will require regular watering through the first two growing seasons. Maintenance, however, can be relatively minimal once the trees are established.
TENURE: Due to the investment in plant materials and
establishment of the trees, and the intent to harvest the largest volume of wood from the site, at least ten years would be a minimum tenure to justify a woodlot/mini-forest.
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Christmas Tree Farm
A Christmas tree farm on a vacant lot can grow small holiday trees for local residents in a relatively short time.
Minimum Interim Design Requirements for CHRISTMAS TREE FARM:
LOCATION FACTOR: A Christmas treee farm could be in most any location.
LOT SIZE: A site of any size can be a Christmas tree farm assuming all other factors are met.
SUN: Most trees prefer full sun for maximum growth.
SOIL: In order for tree seedlings to become established, the
soil should be friable with some nutrients.
RELIEF: Variations in the terrain are not necessary for a
Christmas tree farm.
VEGETATION: Some existing vegetation on the site might be a
good indicator of soil that is not too compact to support the new trees. The variety of trees selected to plant should be fast growing, hardy, and relatively disease and pest resistant.
WATER: Water must be available at least to establish new
tree seedlings the first two years. Tree varieties should be selected according to water availability.
FENCING: Fencing is if dumping will be a problem on the site,
liability prohibits public trespassing, or "poaching" is a potential problem.
UNIQUE FEATURE: Unique features are not inherently important to the design of a Christmas tree farm.
COMMUNITY INPUT: Residents knowledge of the project can help to establish a neighborhood respect for the site, e.g. to discourage cutting the trees, vandalism, etc.
USE HAZARDS: As the Christmas tree farm is not an active public use area, liability risks are low. There will be some potential hazards at harvest time.
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DESIGNER ROLE: the design of a Christmas tree farm above all requires proper site assessment and species selection.
SUPPORT DEMAND: the highest cost is the initial investment in the trees, and soil preparation; eventually harvest fees and Christmas tree sales would offset some expenses; in the interim, additional support might come from donations of tree seedlings (e.g. Forest Service).
MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENT: once the tree seedlings are planted, they will require regular watering through the first two growing seasons; maintenance, however, can be relatively minimal once the trees are established.
TENURE: due to the investment in plant materials and
establishment of the trees, and the intent to harvest marketable Christmas trees from the site, at least five years would be a minimum tenure to justify a Christmas tree farm.
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Soil Farm/Compost Center
Good topsoil is a premium in the city. The worst soils are often on derelict land. Vacant lots are typically compacted by the demolition activity, use as parking lots, or simply for lack of organic matter. Broken glass, toxic materials such as oils, and building debris may render the soil dangerous and infertile.
Such vacant properties are prime locations for soil "production" areas.
Specifically, leaves and grass clippings can be minimally managed to compost into prize soil amendments. Their decomposition is odorless, their appearance tidy, and benefit to neighborhood gardens or as a future garden immense. New Haven, Connecticut was running out of space to dump the leaves collected over the years from the parks just about when gardeners discovered the "black gold." Indeed, leaf composting can benefit both over-full landfills and infertile urban soils.
Adam Purples "Garden of Eden" in New York Citys Lower East Side (Gibbons and Wilson 384) is the ultimate inspiration here.
Purple explains, "As the city removes buildings, I follow behind with pick, shovel, and rake, converting their rubble into soil." He and his wife have sifted out the brick sand from the debris and uses horse manure from City Park for organic matter to support flower gardens on the site. Horse manure, sand and potash are composted to transform the 15,000 square-foot demolition site into a veritable garden ("Notes and Comment" 16-17). The site on Eldridge Street is slated for construction of low income housing, so its seven year life in 1985 was tentative (the current status of the garden is unknown). But the laborious soil-building will not be in vain if the Purples can bag and take their "gold" to another poor site.
As composting processes produces hight heat, the material is not attractive to rodents for food or cover. It is important, however, with organic materials other than leaves and grass (e.g. kitchen garbage) which might be attractive to rodents that the compost is actively decomposing. Otherwise, odors and rodents can become a problem.
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