The Grand Street Vacant Lot Project

Vacant Lot.jpg

What would you put here?

By Jessica Pasko

What would you do with a vacant lot? The folks of Grand Street Community Arts want to know.

They've got big plans to turn some of the empty lots in Albany's South End into areas of urban beautification. Through the Vacant Lot Project, organizers will be working with community organizations and individuals to come up with new ways to revitalize the spaces.

And they're looking for input.

The project started last year when the GSCA worked with some teenagers from their Youth Organics program to transform a lot on Elizabeth Street. They were hoping to turn the lot into a small theater for neighborhood performances. They did a lot of research, but their work never got past the planning stage. But it looks like things will be different this year.

GSCA has been working with the city and owners of private lots to determine what types of things they'll be allowed to do with the spaces. They're accepting proposals from individuals and organizations until April 9. Once they decide which plans to go with, they'll seek final approval from the city. If all goes according to plan, they hope to start working on the lots by May.

While GSCA certainly has a lot of ideas about how to revitalize the lots, they're also leaving a lot of opportunity open. Tom McPheeters, development director of GSCA, says that most of the projects will be centered around landscaping, but even that holds a lot of possibility. It could include garden beds, installation art pieces, outdoor exhibit spaces and more.

Basically, they're looking for anything that could be good for the neighborhood, according to Jane Wolterding, a graduate student helping to manage the project. She says they're hoping some of the proposals will hold ideas they've never thought of.

GCSA has a pretty good track record when it comes to urban beautification. Their Boarded Up! project just re-launched with nine new boards hung on Friday. Be sure to check it out.

And if you're interested in being a part of one of the vacant lot transformations, you're invited to submit your proposal by e-mail or snail mail. Details can be found on the Web site, or contact or 518-433-0679.


Some wildflowers and two park benches.


pretty park space or even better more community gardens (flower or food or both!).

1. Use it as a space for weekly community classes (art, acting, bike repair, dog training).

2. Small park with paths, benches, and flowers.

3. Community garden.

4. Farmer's market.

5. Sculpture garden.

6. Very mini-golf course.

7. Roller rink in the summer/ice rink in the winter.

Yes..!!!!!! if one thing is needed in Albany (especially downtown) its Pterodactyls

Living in the neighborhood, I would personally prefer a space that is open to everyone, as opposed to a garden, with the caveat that it is better lit than the current park spaces already in geographic proximity.

get a projector and show movies

Pterodactyls and T-Rexes and Stegosaurs too!

But seriiously, why not a little mini park/playground with dinosaurs as a theme?

A scent garden. Plus some benchs and tables for playing chess and other games.
While I'm an advocate of community gardens (and have a plot in one of them), I understand the point made above about wider use by neighborhood residents. A community garden would benefit 6 or 8 gardeners, but a "pocket park" would benefit everyone.

How about a small stage, or the reverse - layered seating levels with the stage at the bottom. If there was a flat wall painting white behind the stage, they could definitely show movies there! Plus, i would love to see neighbothood kids get creative with a stage to perform on.

Put in a barbeque pit - some benches - make it a place where friends can gather together, prepare & share a meal, maybe sing & play accoustic music, have a drum circle

Here's the updated lot descriptions. You have until April 30 to submit a proposal!

What's wrong with a vacant lot? Does every lot have to be filled with a community garden? We're filling the neighborhood with publicly owned housing (does that generate any income for the tax base?) we've got a ton of empty buildings that need to be cleaned up and a couple parks that are already not particularly well maintained. How about we just leave a flippin' vacant lot, install some garbage pails on the corners, train people to clean up after their dogs, throw their chicken bones and empty containers in them, repair the street lights, put the corner dealers out of business and try to find someone to run some sort of local corner store that isn't dirty and committing food stamp fraud?

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