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President's Preview

Tamar Shapiro, President of Center for Community Progress
Tamar Shapiro, President of Center for Community Progress
In just under four months, practitioners, policymakers and researchers from around the country will gather for the 2013 Reclaiming Vacant Properties (RVP) conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Like previous RVP conferences in Pittsburgh, Louisville, Cleveland and New Orleans, this national conference will convene between 600 and 1,000 participants, all of whom are working to prevent blight and encourage innovative reuse of vacant properties in their communities. 

Reclaiming Vacant Properties provides a unique opportunity to learn from and connect with peers across the country. We hope that you will leave Philadelphia with tools and tactics that can support you in your everyday work, new ideas that can reshape your community's approach to vacancy and abandonment and strengthened connections with new allies whom you can call upon for ongoing support. 

The theme of this year's conference is "Investing in the Future: Unlocking Hidden Values." One of the underlying principles that has guided Community Progress’ work since it was founded in 2010 is our abiding belief that vacant properties should be viewed not merely as a liability, but as an asset -- an opportunity to develop new and innovative uses, rebuild the civic fabric and reclaim neighborhoods. There will be over 30 breakout sessions at this year’s conference, many of which will highlight innovative ways to derive value from vacant properties. City and community leaders will share lessons about reclaiming vacant properties for urban greening, agriculture and stormwater management; transforming brownfields into "healthfields" that serve as medical services hubs in areas with underserved communities; creating partnerships among city officials, developers and anchor institutions to support reinvestment in targeted blocks; or building coalitions among financial institutions and community development advocates to further state agendas for vacant property reclamation -- to mention just a few. These sessions and many more will illuminate the value -- not only financial, but also in terms of new partnerships, opportunities for economic development and benefits associated with environmental stewardship -- that can be unlocked by reclaiming vacant properties.

In addition to the breakout sessions, the conference will include a series of training workshops. These in-depth, hands-on workshops will cover all you need to know about a range of familiar tools, including land banking, as well as less familiar topics, such as understanding the pros and cons of tax lien sales and developing new public safety strategies based on partnerships among the police, the courts and code enforcement officials. We are working to make these trainings as interactive as possible, so that you will walk out the door with an understanding not just of high-level strategies, but also of the nuts-and-bolts of implementation. For example, participants in one training session will have the opportunity to collect data about property conditions in Philadelphia neighborhoods using their own mobile devices in order to gain first-hand experience with new technological tools and will then work as a group to interpret and apply the data to develop neighborhood strategies.

Finally, we are thrilled to be hosting this year's conference in Philadelphia, a city with a rich history of implementing innovative new programs and practices to address vacancy and abandonment. We will take you by boat and by bus to see and learn about the many exciting projects underway in Philadelphia (and New Jersey!) through a series of mobile sessions, which are described in more detail in this newsletter.

Each conference provides another opportunity to expand and strengthen our Community Progress family. Just as you learn from each other, we also learn from all of you. And we rely upon you as we continue to build this movement of community leaders, activists and officials committed to restoring the strength of our neighborhoods through innovative reuse of vacant properties.

We look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia.

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