Neighborhood Pathways – Improving Connectivity and Livability
Vacant lots are a serious neighborhood concern. Even a small number on a block can shrink nearby housing values and make neighborhoods more vulnerable to crime.
Looking to find creative ways to combat vacancy, the City of Cleveland has adopted and championed what they call ‘neighborhood pathways’ as a promising blight-busting strategy.
Neighborhood pathways are walking and biking passageways built on vacant land that create a connection between adjacent streets. They provide routes through communities that do not require the use of a car. They also supply additional green space, and boost housing values and neighborhood safety by reimagining poorly maintained land.
The idea for these pathways originated from talks between city officials, community development nonprofits, and other grassroots leaders back in 2008, after the release of a vacant land study. Re-Imagining Cleveland - an initiative dedicated to finding new, constructive ways to utilize vacant lots that also improves neighborhood health – emerged from these talks.
Along with pathways, Re-Imagining Cleveland has proposed a variety of other ways to transform vacant land, including turning lots into vineyards, orchards, pocket parks, and rain gardens, as well as expanding the side yards of bordering properties. They have also provided helpful resources that detail what properties are best suited for what project, define challenges or ‘things to consider,’ discuss how much time and energy will be required to turn these ideas into reality, and estimate the approximate costs involved.
For pathway projects, the Re-Imagining Cleveland ‘pattern book’ recommends larger paths on bigger lots that could be replaced over time with homes or transformed to more beneficial uses longer-term, as well as presenting diagrams for thinner ‘parcel’ connectors located on land too narrow for alternative purposes - and excitingly - a series of strategically placed ‘multiple parcel connectors’ that – taken together - create an uninterrupted link between adjoining neighborhoods, parks, athletic fields, and other local amenities like schools, retail corridors, or places of worship.
Pathway on Wider Lot Single Thin Parcel Multiple Parcels
Along with best practice suggestions, they also share pathway success stories, like the Lucia Greens Pathway Park, that connects senior housing with parks and office space, and the West 12th Street Neighborhood, that links a walking and cycling path with a major highway pedestrian bridge.
Lucia Greens Pathway West 12th Street Neighborhood
Inspired by the Cleveland example, East Akron has incorporated the pathway model into their own vacant lot remediation plans, where they have proposed a path that would connect neighborhoods with their local school. To make their city more pedestrian-friendly, Olympia, Washington implemented a similar program in 2013, where they have already completed several projects.
Pathways tick many boxes. They have the potential to reduce blight, improve neighboring housing values, increase transportation options, improve health, add green space, increase safety, and connect communities to each other as well as to important neighborhood amenities. They’re an interesting way to turn vacant lots into assets, and provide a way to get from Point A to Point B without getting into your car!
What do you think of neighborhood pathways? Could you see these having a positive impact on your community?
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Photos and Graphics Courtesy of Re-Imagining Cleveland and the East Akron Neighborhood Revitalization Plan