Vacant Lot Toolkit Background

One of the legacies of Pittsburgh’s economic shift is a large amount and wide variety of vacant and distressed property. The reversion and accumulation of properties coming under public responsibility has placed an enormous burden on the City while contributing no taxes to pay for public services. Compounding the challenge is the dispersed nature of these properties, their size, their title status, and the fact that some have historic resource value or a historic designation.

While some neighborhoods have more vacant and distressed properties than others, the parcels are distributed throughout the city. Finding viable interim uses, preserving future opportunities and crafting long-term solutions for this inventory of land are key challenges with which Pittsburgh has been grappling, and that the Open Space Plan in particular has been tasked with addressing. The estimated cost of maintaining these properties in 2011 totals $20,457,155.

Pittsburgh’s vacant and distressed lands are not automatically considered part of the open space system. The City’s park system is already under-resourced in terms of capital and operations funding. A major part of Open Space Plan was an analysis to help determine suitable uses for these lands. 

Pittsburgh contains approximately 27,000 properties that are — for economic, physical, or other reasons — vacant, distressed, or currently undeveloped. Distressed sites include parcels that are currently vacant, condemned or tax- delinquent. While these sites present a challenge in terms of defining a future use, they offer a variety of opportunities to shape the urban form and character of Pittsburgh.

Turning acres of vacant land into formal parks and open spaces without consideration for when and where additions are needed or desired will have a negative impact on the existing system. As part of the Open Space Plan process, the City conducted an analysis to help determine suitable uses for these lands. Concurrent with the Open Space Plan, there have been other City efforts to evaluate vacant lands as well, including the efforts of the Land Recycling Task Force.