All posts by ania kolodziej

Depressed? Are you living next to a vacant site?

It’s no surprise that your environment has an impact on your health. According to a new study, a depressing environment such as the existence of vacant sites that attract dumping, criminal activity and discourage investment could be affecting your mental health.

The solution? Non-expensive site activation such as greening or cleaning up garbage and maintaining a site could improve your mental health and well-being.

For more, see Empty lots, vacant buildings in neigbourhoods may contribute to feelings of depression

200 City-owned Sites to be used for Affordable Housing

It’s not every day that the City of Vancouver announces an initiative as grand as the Endowment fund created to help deliver 12 000 affordable homes, and a total of 72 000 homes over the next 10 years. Vacant City-owned sites play a central role in the project as 200 City-owned assets (vacant and non-vacant sites) will be amalgamated to enable the City to realise its project. The City’s general manager of planning Gil Kelley stated: “This fund will allow the City to deliver the maximum amount of non-market housing for residents by leveraging the assets we currently own. Combining these assets will significantly enhance our ability to deliver on Housing Vancouver targets.”

For more information, please read: Vancouver Council greenlights $2B affordable housing fund

“Work hard, stay bumble” on vacant lots

This is an idea that was not raised when consulting City of Vancouver residents about their ideas for vacant lots: producing local honey on vacant sites in Detroit!

One way to keep vacant lots from attracting illegal dumping and criminal activity is to bee keep!  One family in Detroit is transforming vacant derelict land into urban bee lots. They are responsible for a quarter of a million honey bees in the East Warren community and offer tours and bee education for the community. Their motto: “Work Hard, Stay Bumble.”

For more information, check out: Work Hard, Stay Bumble

Turning Vacant Spaces into Growing Places

When Deena DelZotto and Rachel Kimel noticed vacant, underutilized space in their neighbourhod, they wanted to grow food! Why not? There was no good reason.

The two social entrepreneurs set out to make gardening mobile by building gardens in milk crates. According to Deena and Rachel, now founders of the Bowery project, a farm of up to 5000 crates can be disassembled and relocated within 24 hours. The Bowery project aims to put vacant land back to work for temporary urban agriculture, while avoiding the risk posed by the likely soil contamination on vacant lots. The Bowery project grows food for local chefs/restaurants and charities while engaging the community through fun, creative and educational programming.

Next time you’re in Toronto, check them out at 307 Lake Shore Blvd East for the Edible Learning Garden or at any of their other Bowery Project events

Temporary Modular Housing on Vacant Land

The City of Vancouver has made vacant land available for the construction of modular housing for the immediate support of lower income and homeless residents in Vancouver.

The Province has committed $66 million to build 600 units of temporary modular housing on vacant City of Vancouver-owned land.

Temporary modular housing has offers many benefits to its residents and the community. It provides a home to someone in need in record time (less than 6 months to build and install!), creates a sense of community and belonging for those who could not find their place, reduces waste during manufacturing and installation and can be transported to new locations once the current vacant site is no longer available. The temporary housing is available for 3 to 5 years. 

The City of Vancouver’s current housing sites include:

  1. 7430 and 74
  2. 50 Heather Street (78 tenants)
  3. 1131 Franklin Street (39 tenants)
  4. 525 Powell Street (39 tenants)
  5. 4480 Kaslo Street (52 tenants)
  6. 2132 Ash Street (in construction)
  7. Little Mountain 137 E 37th Avenue (in construction)
  8. 610 and 620 Cambie Street (approved for construction)
  9. 5077 and 5095 Heather Street (approved for construction)
  10. 215 West 1st Avenue (proposed for construction)
  11. Union Street and Gore Avenue (898 Main Street) (proposed for construction

Click here to watch a video of the temporary modular housing construction!

For more information visit:

Vacant since 1970. Worth $8.5million.

A privately-owned site in one of the most desirable locations in Downtown Vancouver has been vacant for nearly 50 years.

The property located at 1401 Robson Street is owned by  a Hong Kong company and is zoned for commercial and residential use. The owner, who must pay taxes on the property even if it’s vacant, does not appear to want to sell or make any use of the site. The City of Vancouver cannot force a private landowner to do anything in particular with his/her property.

For more details see: Vacant lot on Vancouver’s Robson Street is decades-old $8.5M real estate mystery


Tent-city on Vacant City-owned Land

On April 28, 2017, the site of a former vacant city-owned property was given new purpose: Tent-City. Unfortunately,  this was not a temporary use accepted by the City. Perhaps an aesthetically pleasing art installation would have garnered more positive attention.

The City of Vancouver sought an injunction to have the tent city removed. However, Justice Neena Sharma dismissed the City’s application concluding that the safety and stability of the occupants outweighs the potential ham to the City.

The City cited development plans as the reason for requesting immediate removal of the tent city occupants. The site has been vacant for two decades with no activity to speak of. In fact, a tent city was erected on the very same site a decade ago.

What is the City doing about its vacant sites ? Spending public resources to keep them out of the public’s reach.

It’s time for Vancouver to create a policy and strategy regarding vacant city-owned sites the reduces inequality and enables access to land.

Watch CBC’s A walk through Main Street’s tent city

Read the court’s decision: Vancouver (Vancouver) v Wallstam, 2017 BCSC 937

“Uninterrupted” in vacant space

A vacant space can truly be found anywhere and be used for anything. One vacant, underutilized space in particular caught the eye of documentary filmaker Nettie Wild, whose latest project “Uninterrupted” was projected into the underside of the Cambie Street Bridge. The film is about the Adams River salmon run, which aims at educating viewers of their role in maintaining the salmon run. A truly moving, education and unique experience in underutilized vacant space. What will Nettie come up with next?

For more, see “Uninterrupted”


“I’m so lucky you found me”

As part of Unused Terrain, I regularly follow initiatives by organisations whose purpose is to revitalize, recycle, or re-use vacant lots. 596 acres, an organization based in New York and founded by Paula Z. Segal, first started activating vacant land when Paul came across a spreadshees of all the publicly owned vacant land in Brooklyn and created a map of it to distribute (easier said than done, if our experience in Vancouver is to be relied on!) The map was designed to be a tool to “let people know about the unharnessed potential hidden in plain sight throughout the city’s neighbourhoods.” Since then, 596 acres creates tools that aid citizens access and activate vacant city-owned lands. Their goal is to change the way people see vacant land in their neighbourhood and empower relationships and connections with land. Many of the tools created by 596 acres help citizens understand what is happening with vacant lots and promotes community development and education about sustainable land use. An admirable goal and something to aspire to!

For more information check out 569 Acres

Making the Most of Underutilized Space

In November 2017, a group of SFU students built a giant blanket fort for a music stage beneath the Cambie Street Bridge in order to showcase what can be done with underutilized public space. Under the giant blanket fort was a street festival, book exchange, and a musical patio jam space. The students were tasked with developing installations that reflect the growing needs in Vancouver. The blanket fort represented the increase in tent cities across the province.  No indication on whether a permit was obtained from the City of Vancouver for the temporary space use.

For more information, check out: Students build giant blanket for music stage beneath Cambie Street bridge