There’s probably not a single economic development plan in existence that lists “Have a bunch of vacant properties” in its recommendations for economic success. But every municipality in the country has vacant or even abandoned properties to deal with, and will need to address them in order to fully succeed.
Vacant properties are incredibly complicated. Sometimes it can be a challenge to just figure out who owns the property. If you make it through that hurdle, there are the technical obstacles of figuring out how to safely renovate older buildings or remediate empty lots.
Then there are reputational obstacles. If an area has suffered with vacancies for some time, it can be a challenge to find a first tenant for an empty block or a business owner willing to get beyond the perception of the area. Even understanding how to correctly price these kinds of properties can be a hurdle.
And in the meantime, while you are figuring out everything above, vacant properties can also depress the values of properties near them and discourage people from coming to a neighborhood. That can mean getting stuck in a seemingly inescapable cycle of disinvestment, reduced services, and then more disinvestment.
Vacant properties—especially historic ones—mean your community has a heritage, and that is the seed every great place needs in order to grow. There are almost certainly people in your community who have a vision for a small business, but who have absolutely no idea how to go about finding or creating the space for one. There are also probably people in your community who are rooting for your city and want to see it thrive. If you find these people and support them, together you can turn vacant properties into world-class destinations.
Knoxville, Tennessee is a great example of a city that has done this and thrived. The city recognized that vacant commercial buildings in the Magnolia Warehouse District were starting to negatively impact the residential neighborhood nearby. The city decided to use a combination of infrastructure investments and small-scale manufacturing businesses to attract other businesses and new investment to the area. Today, work is underway to make this district a reality.
Vacant properties can be a secret asset — if you think about them the right way. Recast City helps build communities where small-scale manufacturing businesses thrive. Are you ready to thrive? Book a free 45-minutes session with me now.