Fast Company reporter Adele Peters dives in to the ways in which New Orleans is attempting to turn around their blighted and vacant lots, left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The city is filled with empty houses and lots, so instead of just auctioning off the lots one by one, the city created a design competition called Future Ground in which teams spent six months coming up with fresh ideas for how the city could use the vacant space.

Some of the ideas that came out of the competition included using the land for space to tackle the unemployment issue by giving jobs on the sites to those without college degrees, creating space for block parties and events to engage the community, creating wildlife habitats, or using the space for storm water retention.

The New Orleans Redevelopment Agency is rewriting its strategic planning with some of the ideas, and already implementing others. A new acquisition program will gather multiple lots into larger sites. A new regional committee on resilience will look at how individual properties and blocks relate to the broader area. And a new "resilience district" will turn vacant lots in the Gentilly neighborhood into parks.

The ideas could also be useful elsewhere, say designers—not just in those with shrinking populations, like Detroit, but also in parts of cities like Atlanta, where some similar problems exist.

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