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use guide

The possibilities for vacant lot improvement are infinite. This guide is meant to help you weigh the impacts of your design choices. The following values reflect input from city and county officials, neighborhood leaders, environmentalists, designers and land use experts who helped develop this website for the City of Albany. Use this guide to help you evaluate your vacant lot project before you start. Example: if a development concept has 5 storm water management icons, it is deemed to be highly effective in reducing storm water runoff. If it has only one such icon, it’s benefit is deemed to bE negligible.


Become A Solution to Water Pollution. As development increases, there are fewer trees available to soak up ground water and replenish our atmosphere with oxygen. When rain and melted snow runs off hard paved surfaces directly into the storm drains, it transports pollutants (bacteria from pet waste, fertilizers, oil drips from cars, metal from brake linings, sediment, etc.) to streams and ultimately to the Hudson River. Water catchment practices like rain barrels or pervious pavement, contain runoff on site and if directed to a rain garden, pollutants are treated naturally. Conserve water and add green space to our city with multi-purpose strategies which add value to our communities. They are an easy way to become a solution to storm water pollution! Keep the Rain out of the Drain!



Good environmental stewardship is rewarded by better health, wholesome food, strong communities and a stronger planet. According to the National Wildlife Federation, if we planted street trees in all the available locations in our cities, they could increase the absorption of CO2 by 33 million tons per year and save $4 billion in energy costs. This would also reduce our air conditioning needs by countering the urban heat island effect, and that’s just the trees! Composting, bat houses, butterfly bushes, and bee friendly plantings are not just for the suburbs and farms. Conservation and sustainable landscape practices improve the environment and make cities more livable for everyone.



Nearly 64% of adults are overweight or obese in Albany County, according to 2013-2014 statistics. Studies report that an abundance of green space encourages physical activity, promotes relaxation, increases positive emotions and aids in stress recovery. But city parks and recreational paths/trails should not be the only way for people to get out and enjoy themselves with much needed exercise. Redevelopment of deteriorated and unsafe spaces benefits us twofold. It returns land to viable use and it discourages the unsafe activities that often occur in dark and disowned places. Interviews of residents surrounding green and non-green lots in Philadelphia found that a majority of residents felt safer after greening had occurred. All of the suggestions listed on this site are meant to benefit a community, but communities are unique. So do your homework before claiming that your neighbors will love the improvements you propose



You are investing time and money improving your property and your neighborhood. Why not make the effort profitable? There are business opportunities in urban land development that are also environmentally sound and neighborhood friendly. You can grow crops for market. You can build a home or a structure to house your business. You can lease land or structures to other users. You can expand your backyard to increase the value of your home or rental property. Just planting grass on a vacant lot can increase the value of the properties nearby by 11 percent. Reclaiming land adjacent to your home and expanding your yard space will improve the value of your home



Transforming neglected land into a viable asset will take some level of investment. Know all the potential costs before you get in too far, and then weigh the costs against the benefits. It is far easier for contractors, vendors and building supply stores to give you accurate estimates or bids if you have documentation of the project. A site plan drawn to scale so they can take a measurements is very helpful. Photos of other projects that illustrate your ideas, lists of materials, and sketches or construction drawings will save you money in the long run.



Albany’s Zoning Ordinance and permit review process is designed to protect you, really! As a property owner you would want your neighbors to follow all the regulations laid out in the Zoning Ordinance. We follow rules of the road when we drive. We need to follow rules of development when we build. The city wants you to succeed in reclaiming derelict properties. Engage city staff and qualified professionals to help you navigate the ordinance and the permitting systems. It will be worth the time and money.



There are many land development projects that you can do yourself to save money. With the proper tools and guidance, you can make a big difference in your budget. There are classes available on YouTube and at the big home improvement and landscape supply stores. Understand though, that time is money too. DIY projects generally take longer than contracted work. Friends and family can be a great help but don’t let anyone get hurt. Be sure you have the right insurance and the right safety equipment for everyone on the job.

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