Musharrat, Saima (2017-07). Reclaiming Vacancies: A Community Revitalization and Resilience Strategy. Master's Thesis.
Socially vulnerable populations are often concentrated in flood vulnerable urban areas, resulting in multiple cultural, economic, and ecological issues. Sunnyside, a 4096 acre historically African-American community in Houston, Texas, faces the issues of flooding hazards, high percentage of vacant lands, and low quality of life. Sixteen percent of the neighborhood falls within the 100- and 500-year floodplains, with frequent stormwater settling and ponding; 22% of the neighborhood lots are currently either vacant or abandoned due to population migrations. In addition, there is a significant lack of open spaces and community facilities in the vicinity. Thus, the study explores how urban regeneration of vacant lands can seek to enhance revitalization and resilience in the community. Through four months of public engagement, this research-design study incorporates citizen-driven decision making for identifying the existing issues and future goals. The study then develops a toolbox to reclaim existing vacant lands, depending on each lot's type, size, location, and flood vulnerability. An ArcGIS land suitability analysis with the parameters of elevation, slope, land cover, and existing building footprint is conducted to identify the most suitable vacant lands for future green infrastructure. A 202 acres site is used as a case site to apply Low Impact Development urban design facilities for regulating stormwater and providing active and passive recreation. Integrating green infrastructure within a majority of vacant lands in the neighborhood allows for absorption and infiltration of stormwater before channeling it to the nearby Sims Bayou, and creates an open space network for a healthier community. The rest of the vacant lands are transformed into spatial functions according to identified community needs. For design implementation, the first phase focuses on creating a green infrastructure skeleton to alleviate flood issues, the second phase implements major community facilities as anchor points to spur future development, and the third phase concentrates on infilling housing and new job creation. The design impact analysis projects a significant increase in regeneration of the existing underutilized spaces and decreases in impervious surfaces in the neighborhood, and allows for building capacity and involvement in the community planning process as well.