The Abandoned and Vacant Redevelopment initiative relates to the Muncie Action Plan (MAP) Initiative 4: Creating Attractive & Desirable Places, as it strives to activate abandoned and vacant properties as public gathering spaces. Specifically, the initiative relates to Actions 3 (Continue & Expand the Blight Removal Program), 9 (Promote & Expand Community-Based Neighborhood Enhancement Programs), and 12 (Promote & Support the Land Bank Program) through its effort to remove blighted structures, enhance the aesthetic character of the Industry neighborhood, and transfer ownership from negligent to proactive owners.
Why this is important
During the January public meeting, Industry residents voiced their concerns regarding abandoned and vacant properties. They believe the abandoned and vacant properties are having a negative impact on growth and perception of their neighborhood. They also believe these properties have untapped potential in redefining Industry as a desirable place to live and play. By converting vacant and abandoned properties to public spaces and amenities, Industry will enhance its character. This initiative also allows Industry to address amenity “deserts”, areas where residents do not have access to desirable resources and services. This initiative was given a high priority level by the residents and students.
What this will involve
The first step in redeveloping vacant and abandoned properties is to establish a redevelopment sub-committee. This group will:
- Identify priority project areas
- Identify owners of vacant and abandoned properties in project areas
- Coordinate with City and County government to transfer ownership from private to public in preparation for redevelopment
The subcommittee should use the priority map to identify potential project areas (see below). Targeting areas with multiple, adjacent, vacant/abandoned lots for redevelopment would be beneficial. These areas can be developed in a variety of ways, and address the most blight at one time.
Once project areas are identified, the subcommittee should compile a list of desired uses, considering uses for single lots, adjacent lots, and multiple adjacent lots. This process should be completed during Neighborhood Association meetings, or a public meeting organized by the subcommittee. Public input is important to generate the most support and best use for each project area. Suggested uses for vacant properties include:
- Community Gardens
- Public Art Exhibits
- Public Parks
- Sitting Areas
- Urban Farms
This list is not extensive and the vacant properties can and should be used in conjunction with other neighborhood initiatives.
The next step in the redevelopment process is to transfer ownership from private ownership to public ownership. Ordinance violations entitle City officials to enter private property and, given enough time, to reclaim tax-delinquent properties. The specific steps required to transfer ownership should be worked out with the City of Muncie and Delaware County.
If necessary, the properties should be rezoned for future use. The subcommittee should work with the Muncie Planning Department to work through the process of rezoning.
At this stage, redevelopment should be completed. The subcommittee should review this initiative and the priority map annually, to address any new issues discovered in the redevelopment process, and to update the map to reflect the progress made and new vacant/abandoned properties identified.
The City of Muncie has several programs already in place that could be of assistance to the neighborhood association for funding towards project development. The Department of Community Development is a useful resource for identifying which programs to apply to proposed lot redevelopments. Furthermore, redevelopment towards recreational activities should be added to the Muncie Department of Parks & Recreation’s Master Plan. Added the projects to this plan could make them eligible for funding through the State’s Department of Natural Resources.
Contact information for funding and assistance:
Department of Community Development
300 N. High St. City Hall
Muncie, IN 47305-1639
Phone: (765) 747-4825
Fax: (765) 747-4898
Contact: Ms. Terry Bailey, Director
State & Community Outdoor Recreation Planning Section
Division of Outdoor Recreation
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
402 West Washington Street, Room 271
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2782
Phone: (317) 232-4070
Fax: (317) 233-4648
Contact: Bob Bronson, Chief Planner
The suitability map shows that vacant and abandoned properties are scattered throughout the Industry neighborhood. Therefore, this initiative can be applied anywhere vacant properties are identified. High priority is given to areas with several adjacent lots grouped together. Medium priority is given to smaller clusters of parcels. Low priority ratings are given to single or clusters of vacant parcels that are small in area.
Case Study One: Genesee County Land Bank Authority (GCLBA) – Genesee County, Michigan
In 1999, Michigan State Legislature passed Public Act 123, which streamlined the process of returning tax-delinquent properties to productive use. The Act gives outright ownership of tax-delinquent properties to the local County Treasurer after two and a half years.
Capitalizing on PA 123 and land bank legislation, Genesee County created the Genesee County Land Bank Authority (GCLBA) in 2004. The County used PA 123 as a community development tool. The GCLBA transfers land to adjacent homeowners, develops long and short-term green spaces, and acquires land for development. The GCLBA also cooperates with non-profit organizations to achieve shared goals.
Case Study Two: Philadelphia Horticulture Society (PHS) Philadelphia LandCare Program
PHS Philadelphia LandCare is a citywide program in Philadelphia that “cleans and greens” vacant properties. The goal of the program is to clear and prevent blight in order to protect property values and encourage reuse by revealing the potential of vacant properties.
The program has been in existence since 1996 and went through two pilot phases prior to becoming a citywide program in 2004. Philadelphia’s Office of Housing and Community Development runs the program who contracts out most of the work to the Philadelphia Horticulture Society, but there are also Community LandCare Programs in which LandCare contracts with community organizations to assist with the cleaning and mowing of properties that have not undergone the “Clean and Green” process. PHS LandCare uses ordinance violations to gain access to unmaintained private property. Work completed on the site is charged to the owner. If the owner does not pay, a lien is placed on their property.
The Office of Housing and Community Development chooses the properties selected for the program. The program currently manages 8,600 properties.