The Unified Positive Effect Garden, Beltzhoover. Photo courtesy of GTECH.

Do you know of a vacant lot that needs love? It’s likely since there are 45,000 in Allegheny County., which GTECH Strategies launched yesterday on Earth Day, is a resource for community groups and residents who “have an interest in small, resident-driven greening projects on vacant lots.”

How? The website aggregates all the data and resources needed to overhaul a blighted lot—from how to assess the lot, raise funds and engage the community, to identifying ownerships and getting permission, to envisioning the space according to parameters of time, cost and workforce.

“There’s a lot of information out there—but it’s not always easy to find, so we worked with Greenspace Alliance and the Pittsburgh Department of City Planning to put the resources people need all in one place,” says Sara Innamorato, marketing and communications manager at GTECH Strategies.

An interactive map helps people identify who owns vacant lots and—based on the ownership—what the individuals need to do to get permission to do the work. Check the website to see a map that allows you to search by neighborhood, municipality or address.

“We want to standardize the information on vacant lots and make it public facing,” says Innamorato.

Junk Collage for Pittsburgh Marathon, Homewood. Photo credit, GTECH.

In addition, there’s a checklist that breaks down what’s involved when designing a site. For example, if you want to create a flower garden, the site lists the cost, time and workload for the planting. It explains the process, the benefits and the materials needed. And it highlights special considerations and gives general and localized facts about planting a flower garden.

On this interactive website, you’ll see the steps to implement, plant and maintain a flower garden, food garden or a rain garden. There are plans to create a wooded lot or a lot with trails. You can learn what’s needed to build a parklet or play space. There’s information on how to do a basic clean and green, which emphasizes stabilizing the lot with a clean-up, grass seeding and tree planting.

St. Joseph’s garden in Mt. Oliver. Photo credit GTECH.
St. Joseph’s garden in Mt. Oliver. Photo credit GTECH.

It also explores these more unexpected vacant lot makeovers:

Gateway gardens: these welcoming gardens sit near the entrance to a neighborhood and draw attention with plantings, flowers and signage.

Green + Screen: this type of vacant lot project creates a screen—vacancy with view—by using public art.

Pop-up events can transform vacant lots for an art show, an open-air dinner, a musical performance or an event that brings the community together to brainstorm about ideas for the space.

Andrew Butcher, CEO, started GTECH while finishing his graduate degree at CMU. His research involved—not surprisingly—vacant land. In an earlier interview, Butcher said he’s “really passionate about the issues that fall between the cracks.”

“I came across the idea of looking at bio-fuel crops on vacant land and brownfields by trying to remediate soil to produce a biofuel feed stock that serves as a platform for green jobs.

“But what I really learned was the energy that we were cultivating has much more of a human capital,” he said.

Reclaiming vacant land drives community development as it brings people together and gives them the tools them to create change—and this instills a sense of community pride.

“Action speaks louder than plans, and if you are able to remove brick and rubble from the land, you can implement anyone’s vision—and that is what enables ongoing iterative process of community development.”

Woods wanderer who was an an editor at New England’s regional magazine, the research director of a Colorado newspaper and a farm hand in Vermont before returning to Pittsburgh to write about and explore her hometown.