URA LandCare Program

The URA LandCare program is a localized maintenance program that allows small businesses and nonprofits to participate in vacant lot maintenance for the URA’s portfolio of properties. The program launched in September 2016 with 7 community-based contractors maintaining roughly 350 URA-owned vacant properties. Since then, the program has grown to incorporate the rest of the URA’s portfolio and supports 9 small businesses and nonprofits that actively steward URA property.

To learn about the results of the pilot year of the LandCare program, check out our Sustainable Return on Investment report. A summary is available here.

LandCare Map Description:

LandCare contractors visit each parcel in their bundle at least once a month and report on every lot they maintain. Each contractor has assigned colors (see map key). Click on a parcel to view pictures and information about the work being done in your neighborhood. Light colors indicate that the parcel has yet to be visited. Darker colors indicate that the parcel has already been visited and maintained this month.

“This one program, LandCare, it hits on so many things. It creates jobs, empowers residents, builds capacity, and beautifies the community. The landscape is now greener and more open.”

Laura DendyErvin Home Beautification, Small Business Participant in the LandCare Program

URA LandCare Program History

In January 2015, the Urban Redevelop Authority of Pittsburgh authorized a request to issue an RFP to seek qualified community-based nonprofit organizations to work with the URA and City officials to develop a capacity-building program that enabled community-oriented service providers to perform lot maintenance under URA and City contracts. 

At the time, the URA managed the maintenance of over 1,400 vacant lots and over 50 vacant structures. These lots are distributed across the City of Pittsburgh. However, the highest concentrations of vacant lots occur in the City’s most vulnerable communities and often contribute to the image of blight, abandonment, and distress in these neighborhoods. The URA Board asserts its commitment to resolving this issue and hired Grounded Strategies, then known as GTECH, to plan, develop, and implement a localized maintenance system.

“This program has provided unity in the community. It empowers and hires residents from the Hazelwood community.” Saundra Cole McKamey, Executive Director of POORLAW

In early 2016, Grounded started working closely with the URA to develop a tiered vacant lot maintenance system. The tier-system allowed URA staff to identify and prioritize vacant lots of similar size and condition that were concentrated in five communities. Approximately 350 vacant lots were grouped into seven separate bundles. Two bundles were located in the Hill District, two in Homewood, and one in Hazelwood, Manchester, and Larimer. In the summer of 2016, an RFP was released for firms to apply for year-long maintenance for one bundle.

The URA adopted the new initiative and the LandCare program launched in September 2016. For one year, seven contractors were responsible for maintaining URA-owned property. Responsibilities included the removal and disposal of debris, cutting of grass and general overgrowth, snow removal and deicing of sidewalks and drives, response to emergency situations, and clean-out of non-hazardous materials from lots. Contractors report their work on a web and mobile-based software that the URA verifies. For each site visit, contractors take before and after images and note the completed maintenance activities. Contractors also participated in community outreach to help publicize their service schedules.

Since the development of the LandCare program, 7 small businesses have contracts, 55 individuals employed in property maintenance, and 2.5 million square feet of vacant land cleaned and maintained.