UNI Urban Neighborhood Initiative Vacant 2 Vibrant – A Guide to Working with Lots

In keeping with our goal to revitalize the urban neighborhoods in our core, UNI and many of their partners throughout the city set to work last year to provide tools for groups to reclaim vacant lots and turn them into places of pride. Starting with a similar document that had been created for Detroit Future City, we built the Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI) Vacant to Vibrant: A Guide to Working with Lots. It comes with the main guide that provides lots of ideas on how to choose a lot and a team in general. This guide offers detailed ways to help spur ideas for vacant lot projects and point you toward the resources you need to accomplish your goals.

Then below are several templates to choose from with all the steps involved for specific designs:

Clean + Green

The Clean + Green lot design is a set of guiding principles to prepare a lot for a healthy and low maintenance future. This template offers an inexpensive, hands-on approach to improving the soils on your lot. It provides an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical-based fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides. These soil treatments are not harmful to insects, wildlife, plants, soil, pets, or humans and can be used on vegetable gardens, flowers, trees, and lawns to provide extra nutritional boost. Two strategies are included for encouraging healthy soil biology to suit the size of your planting area. Additionally, guides with detailed directions for Tree Planting, for Perennials + Grass Planting, and for Bulb Planting are at the end of this document.

Royal Rain Garden

The Royal Rain Garden design is a 6-foot bowl that captures stormwater and slowly releases it into the soil, keeping it from entering Kansas City’s overtaxed sewerage system. The Royal Rain Garden is ideal for neighborhood members looking to create a productive landscape by using their disconnected downspout to water this small garden. This lot design includes a vibrant mixture of native and non-native plants and provides multiple planting options that have been selected to brighten property and provide habitat.

Native Butterfly Meadow

The Native Butterfly Meadow is a Missouri native meadow designed for beautification, habitat creation and to attract pollinators, like the monarch butterfly. The monarch butterfly lays eggs exclusively on the milkweed plant and feeds on the nectar of Pale Purple Coneflower, Rough Blazing Star and Purple Prairie Clover, plants that are included in this lot design. Bordered by a clean, perennial plant edge, this lot design offers a friendly addition to any neighborhood.

Party Lot

The Party Lot brings new activity to a neighborhood by providing a small pocket park, family gathering space, or community hub.

The Party Lot is best installed across multiple lots. When joined together, the perennial beds create outdoor rooms and spaces that can be used for a variety of activities, such as graduations, weddings, or birthday parties, family reunions, and other community get-togethers.

Dumping Preventer

The Dumping Preventer is designed to reduce the risk of illegal dumping on your lot. A planted barrier prevents vehicles and people carrying debris from accessing the lot from the street and through the alley. The planted hedge is spiny, thick, and is two to four feet in height, making it difficult to enter the lot. Two multistemmed trees are planted within the hedge. The colorful, hardy plants in this lot design create a clean edge without having to plant the entire lot.

Summer Shade

The Summer Shade emphasizes working with the resources at hand and on-site. This lot design is great for properties with an unruly woodland or a collection of small trees. The design pairs an investment of time and volunteer labor with a set of maintenance strategies to help you create a well maintained forest patch. The Summer Shade’s guiding principles will help you manage your existing woodland through the removal of dense understory growth and dying or diseased trees, and by adding a few new trees or wildflowers. This management plan welcomes habitat, biodiversity and shade, and adds natural beauty to your neighborhood

Four Seasons

The Four Seasons lot design provides four small, interchangeable landscapes (‘season circles’), each reflecting one season: spring, summer, fall, and winter. This choose-your-own-adventure style design allows you to build one or more season circles on your lot, depending upon your preference. Each Four Season circle features an ornamental tree or shrub, crowned by a stormwater feature — a colorful, planted rain garden filled with perennials and shrubs. This design can accommodate stormwater runoff from adjacent properties and allow water to seep back into the soil within about three days.


Nature Playground

As a community, and as neighbors and caregivers, our challenge is to provide safe places for children to play and create. However, finding such space in an urban setting can sometimes be a difficult task. A good way to do this is repurposing a neighborhood vacant lot into a pocket park or nature playground that can entertain children for hours. Identify a lot, clear the space, add some shade, maybe a few benches to sit on (for the adults), and some simple items for children to build with, and you are done!

Check out our Pinterest page for ideas!