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Brownfield-eliminator App/wiki/map/calendar

The problem : privately owned empty unused spaces that deteriorate when owners & investors just leave it. I suggest online tool that enables volunteers to report & then apply for permission to use the lot for temporary activities

Photo of Johan Löfström
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This concept is about designing a local database-tool that will make it possible for citizens to report directly to authorities about abandoned buildings/property. Application for smartphones/web page/wikipedia/forum. And to search for appropriate venue to hold temporary projects/events (art exhibition/farmers market/food festival/rock concert/whatever...)
(updated 30th december,
removed some details, see the attached document )

This is IT-infrastructure project.
Enable simple instant reports from the citizens to city officials, similar to what is done in some cities (reporting about potholes...)
Suggestion box for citizens requesting activities, a forum to connect with like-minded people and to form groups to organize activities. To make them find venue for their event. To make other citizens go out and search for empty unused lots.

Design this software/App/facebook plugin to make the process to get events up and running quick and smoothly.

Inside the APPlication:
• Posting a venue:
Anyone can take a photo or video of an abandoned house, empty industrial estate, unused property, and upload with a simple report and the GPS-location or address (could be done hightech or lotech)
That report should make the city planners start to:
  1. Search in the archives of who the legal owners are
  2. contact these for investigation
  3. prepare all paper-work, release-forms, insurance and permits that is needed.
  4. place this property in the calendar, available to be scheduled for different events once all paper-work is cleared.
(Users on the forum could give advice on what is needed to fix/repair on each site to make it safer)(users could easily send link/tweets to their friends that look for venues to borrow)

• Posting activity:
Anyone can submit ideas for events/activities they want in their city.
Match with the available properties that are in the database. Make public query for what type of venues are needed, to instill a open search for more properties to add into the database.
All citizens can vote online for projects.
organisor of event can find volunteers and reach customer base in advance, to start work immediately when an appropriate property comes up as available.
Spreading virally tweets about the upcoming events.
Asking for participants videos and photos from each event will be possible, to show how vibrant it was on the night, helps promote future similar events. (It seems very popular to watch on internet who was at the party on previous weekend)

Every property with permission to use, appears in the calender, and becomes able to schedule for activities & projects. Several projects can be held at the same venue at different days of the week. Many activities can coexist, in the same place, at the same time, without interferring with each other. This will definitely bring a vibrant crowd of diverse groups, for interaction and spread of ideas and influences.

• Posting an event:
New activities will appear both in calendar and on the map, and these databases is searchable, and possible for spreading through grapevine, virally/tweets. RSS-feeds can create automatic messaging to people requested news about certain types of activities.

Low-tech-ads onsite (offline-info)
Signs could be put on each site that is reported into this database, to make it clear that this site is just awaiting permits, a cleanup and a go-ahead-signal from the authorities. with info about where citizens can add ideas to what could be done at the site.
When this property clears permits, and exist in the online calender you could change the posters and stickers to a different colour! and with info about upcoming events, and where to look for finding the schedule.
Signs could also be put up on sites that is reported but is not being allowed to be used by the owners, explaining reason why it is abandoned, explaining that there are several other sites like this available to use for your activity, and how to do to book those.
Educational possibilities and work-experience:
If city hall can do a thorough search for all previous owners of the lot, it could compile and share the heritage of it to neighbourhood at these venues (volunteers with access to archive? doing extracredits for school?). All city archives & local museums have got old photos, ancient street maps, blueprints and other records that can be displayed at the events on these sites. (make simple power-point-presentations to project onto the exterior of the factory)

There could be mentoring or apprentice-ships within this program. Work-experience-schemes for unemployed youths within the city council for administration, making them the moderators of the forum in the App (opportunities for engineering & repairing to secure the dangerous sites, constructing safety measures to make them safe to use)
Legal issues:
Property owners could at least be made to give temporary contract and time-limited permission for events that does not require any permanent installation in the ground or on the building.
Funding ideas:
Other property owners in this city would be able to purchase a licence to scan this database for all the different types of ideas that have been submitted by the public. If they find something that they feel is appropriate for their unused properties, it could be organised collaborations to start scheduling activities, anything temporarily.
These companies could be asked to become investors/donors/sponsors/partners.
Perhaps this will create other spin-offs that utilize the functions/service within this concept. Potential for the local business, trade, culture...
there is no need at this stage to create a list of potential events/content to take place on the empty lots, this is just focused on the direct way to have open database as interface-window between the three parts : citizens, government and property owners.

Spin-off idea Service clerk / City Concierge :
Citizens can't waste time to run around the city hall between departments with their simple errands. Install a new form of service-minded employee in the local government! This concierge/clerk receives the citizens at a counter or in this database online, assist in filling out forms, and then run around to all departments to get needed permissions.
( I started this spinoff idea as a separate concept : /open/vibrant-cities/concepting/city-concierge/ so I will add and adjust that concept depending on your feedback/comments on it there)

What resources (money, time, people, technology, etc) will your concept need to be successful?

Existing database or wikipedia-technology adjusted to combine with a calendar and photo-uploading-functions and geo-mapping. (perhaps use only existing social forums?) Staff/Volunteers with some experience in real estate laws and local government code to maintain and monitor/moderate the database/wiki inside the App. These just enable contacts, contracts and permissions, cutting "the red tape". After a trial period it could perhaps arise an active forum community among the event organizers that could be let in to administer parts of this App/forum on a strictly pro-bono basis. To minimize costs for the actual administration. Money for some tools and safety fences to board up the sites, to make sure noone will be able to enter wrong area if event is taking place outdoors outside a dangerous factory etc. This could be outsourced to local contractors, and made to be paid by property owners.

How can your idea be scaled so that it's implemented in cities around the world?

If this software is constructed, it can be franchised to any city. Write a white-book on appropriate conduct. Just need to find suitable local organisations and authorities to explain the concept to. Everything is scalable and adjustable depending on local cities legislation, geography, demographics and culture.

My Virtual Team

See the comment section below on many good contributions! thank you everyone! AnaMaría PardoPachón Anne-Laure Fayard Matthew Rouser Mike McDearmon and the usual collaboration cadre!
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Inspired by (46)

Stockbox Grocer
Cheap is an Opportunity
Map your favorite vibrant places in Foursquare
Urban Growth Boundaries
Loneliness and the city
The BETTER BLOCK Project - getting communities involved.
Renovate, Reuse and Revive
Pop-Up Neighborhood Restaurants
Eliminating 'food deserts'
Real social network in the elevator in Russia
Eliminate Brownfields!
Pavements to Parks San Francisco
Third Thursdays
Turning Cleaning Into Works of Art
Temporary shipping container mall to stimulate economic recovery in Christchurch, New Zealand
Shockoe Forward. A community site to make city improvements more manageable.
Visit the buildings you've always wanted to visit!
Talk to your city: Candy Chang
Temporary shipping container mall stimulates economic recovery in Christchurch
Temporary Real Estate to Maintain Vibrancy in Downtown Area's
Outpost: Art from the Streets - a festival on Sydney's Cockatoo Island
Know Thy Neighbor
The wishes of Saint-Raymond, Montreal
Community Collaboration : It's Good To Be Here
Neighborland (New Orleans)
Empty No More
Broken Windows: what might prevent vibrancy
Give the citizens an opportunity to share their thoughts
The Bureau of Doing Something About It
PARK(ing) Day
Provoking input through artistic gestures
Book: Ground Control - explores privatization of space in the UK + solutions for civic engagement
{Ground Bustle}
UPDATED! Dialogue-Booster Park!
[ Opencity ]
Pop-Up Cultural Hub
TEDxLocalGov - Ideas Worth Spreading... to local government
Explore Youthful Vigor
Reclaimed in Detroit
Wasted Spaces
Free Neighborhood Block For You and Your Friends
Community-based Training Academy for Urban Renewal
Bootstrapped Urban Neighborhood SIP Veggie Farm
Neighborland is up for the Challenge
Business Incubation Centers


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sarah Fathallah

Brilliant idea! Kind of like AirBnB, except for more than just hosting people :)
Maybe there should be a similar "community reviews" function in the app to help owners trust a little more the system? Each profile will also link to past events/activities organized by that member, which will reassure the owners.

Photo of Johan Löfström

Of course, great suggestion. Of course the property owners would need to hear positive feedback from earlier good examples. If it is simply showing votes/results in the app, or doing thorough interviews from previous projects and creating a package of methods that are a range between extremely successful/not so good.

First, I was a bit confused about your comment, because I try to see the "owners of this concept" as the individuals that submit report about the vacant, unused places. (Real Estate Investors & owners could in this concept be completely passive/silent partner, yet contribute and earn kudos by letting people borrow the lot a couple of months or permanently)

Photo of Sarah Fathallah

Oh I see. Sorry about the confusion.

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