Green Infrastructure

Greening Vacant Lots

In this webcast, speakers from the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Buffalo Sewer Authority, and the City of Baltimore will highlight vacant lot greening programs and specific landscape treatments that they have used in their communities. These programs and practices utilize vacant lots as sponges to hold and soak in rainwater, which helps to keep local waterways clean. Implementing green infrastructure on vacant lots can also reduce the incidence of combined sewer overflows and the quantity of stormwater that municipal sewer districts treat and manage. By creatively using vacant lots as an asset, these cities are addressing legacy environmental challenges in new ways that create multiple community co-benefits.

Watch this webcast on YouTube


Session 1: Lot-by-Lot: Baltimore Strategies for Creating a New Urban Landscape Through Vacant Lot Reuse

Jenny Guillaume, Growing Green Initiative Coordinator, Office of Sustainability, City of Baltimore

The session will begin by outlining the network of Baltimore strategies and programs designed to stabilize neighborhoods and attract new development by greening vacant land for public benefit including Vacants to Value, Power in Dirt, and the newly launched Growing Green Initiative. These strategies developed by Baltimore City and nonprofit partners seek to engage communities in neighborhood revitalization to allow residents to use vacant spaces to create their self-identified neighborhood issues. The Green Pattern Book will be featured as a tool that City agencies, NGOs, community-based organizations, and individual residents have used as a guide to greening vacant land. Finally the presentation will showcase a few examples from the Growing Green Design Competition: Vacant Lots Transformed.

Session 2: Buffalo's Use of Demolitions as Urban Stormwater Capture for CSO Long Term Control Plan Compliance

Julie Barrett O’Neill, Green Program Director, Buffalo Sewer Authority, City of Buffalo

Buffalo is one of the first cities to obtain authorization from the EPA and New York State Department of Environmental Concern to use its demolition program as green infrastructure in support of its combined sewer overflow Long Term Control Plan. This session will detail Buffalo's effort to calculate and monitor historic demolitions, a 230 site "green" post demolition project, institutional controls, site maintenance, challenges and opportunities.

Session 3: Vacant to Vibrant: Stormwater Management and Neighborhood Stabilization On Vacant Urban Land

Sandra Albro, Research Associate, Applied Urban Ecology, Cleveland Botanical Garden

There is work underway in Cleveland, OH; Gary, IN; and Buffalo, NY; to repurpose vacant residential parcels as low-cost green infrastructure. Clustering of small stormwater management projects can take advantage of discontiguous vacant parcels while having the potential to achieve large-scale stormwater control. Such an approach also places green infrastructure in closer contact with residents, which may help boost its potential social benefits. The effectiveness and challenges of distributed, small green infrastructure will also be discussed.


Jenny Guillaume

Jenny Guillaume has been the Growing Green Initiative Coordinator since joining Baltimore's Office of Sustainability in 2014. Her work focuses on developing sustainable greening strategies for vacant lots and coordinating City agencies, non-profit partners, and residents in vacant lot transformation. She comes to this position with a background in stormwater management working with the District Department of the Environment in Washington, DC as well as urban agriculture working with a variety of farms and gardens in Washington, DC and Brooklyn, NY. 

Julie Barrett O’Neill

Julie Barrett O’Neill serves as the Green Program Director for the Buffalo Sewer Authority, overseeing the implementation of the Authority’s $93 million green infrastructure combined sewer overflow reduction program. Prior to joining the Buffalo Sewer Authority in 2012, Julie served as the Executive Director and Riverkeeper for the Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER, the WNY region’s largest non-profit water advocacy organization. Julie is an attorney and holds a master's degree in urban and regional planning as well as an undergraduate degree in environmental studies.

Sandra Albro

Sandra Albro investigates how improvements to existing soils and addition of plants improve the ecological and social value of vacant urban land. Her topics of interest include stormwater management, low-maintenance plants, and human use of urban green space. She is Project Manager for Vacant to Vibrant, a Great Lakes Protection Fund–supported initiative to evaluate the success of clusters of small green infrastructure projects to achieve multiple community benefits in Gary, IN; Cleveland, OH; and Buffalo, NY. She is also Project Manager for a U.S. EPA Urban Waters project examining the use of soil remediation and green infrastructure for stormwater management in an intensively treated Cleveland neighborhood.