December 12, 2018

UNL Students Share Ideas to Activate Vacant Lots

UNL Landscape Architecture students present their design plans on December 7, 2018.

Our land assemblies on the Hamilton Street corridor are prime areas for community-oriented development, and we are working hard to prepare for their transformation. However, these sites likely won’t be ready for development for at least another year. We wondered what we could do with the sites in the meantime, to provide a community asset and activate the spaces before they are developed.

In order to find out, we teamed up with Landscape Architecture students at the University of Nebraska Lincoln to develop ideas for temporary uses for these three sites along Hamilton Street. Specifically, the students focused on our 3-acre site at Military Avenue, our 1-acre site at 41st Street, and our .5-acre site at 36th Street.

The three Land Bank land assembly sites evaluated by students. 

Download their vacant lot designs now!

Professor Catherine De Almeida gave the students the following guidelines:

  • Graphically describe the contexts, frameworks, programs, connections + relationships, kit of parts, and strategies of each proposal at the site and context scale
  • Look outside of the site boundaries to develop stronger connectivity to neighboring sites and corridors
  • Focus on the performative, green infrastructure and aesthetic aspects of case studies and proposals as it relates to three scales (site and its context, spaces, and materials)
  • Keep projects low-cost and low-maintenance ($5,000-$7,500 budget per site)
  • Should be reusable and adaptable to different contexts

Three teams of three students presented their projects to our board for feedback in November. This gave them time to refine their designs and show us their final product at the end of the semester. We were blown away by their great ideas!

The first group of students noted that the area surrounding our sites could use more access to fresh food, art activities, and community event venues. Additionally, they noted the proximity of Walnut Hill Elementary, and observed that kids would often walk by our sites on the way home from school. With these considerations in mind, they named their project “The Open House,” a design which themes each site as a room within a house. The largest site was dubbed the Backyard, the middle site became the Kitchen, and the smallest site was designated as the Living Room. Across the sites, these students saw plenty of opportunities to provide family-friendly community events for every season, including art classes, cookoffs, and picnics.

The second group had a strong focus on building materials with their “Mod Park” design. Their design uses wood structures which can easily be built, disassembled, and reassembled by anyone with minimal effort. This allows for the sustainable reuse of parts for multiple purposes and keeps neighbors engaged and interested. This versatile design provides many opportunities for kids to get active, including transformable jungle gyms, snowball forts, and even life-size Angry Birds!

The third group divided their project, named “Orchard Hill,” into activity types by site. With a strong focus on collaborative efforts with nearby partners, this project focuses primarily on providing a space for food, art, and recreation.This group saw potential in local partners like City Sprouts, Omaha Arts Council, and Omaha Public Schools, which could provide opportunities for events like herb gardening, seasonal art galleries, and flag football. The “Orchard Hill” design also utilizes affordable, versatile materials which can be used for both individual events and daily use.

Overall, we were very impressed by the students’ comprehensive projects, and we can’t wait to implement some of their ideas! Temporary land use provides walkable space for community gatherings, keeps local kids active and engaged, and gets neighbors excited about more permanent possibilities for our sites in the future. These affordable, flexible options allow us to turn distressed properties into community assets!

Curious about using some of these designs on a vacant lot in your area? Download the design pdfs now or contact us anytime to learn more!