Flint, MI coined this phrase when it under took an aggressive de-urbanization, blight removal and demolition program. Hundreds of blighted and unsafe structures have been razed and replaced by vacant city lots. Planners call these 'jack o' lantern streets' because the remaining few homes look like the teeth. Today, community gardens have replaced many of the tire and trash infested side yards and vacant lots. Families and neighbors have come together to grow fresh food with the support of community leaders and guidance from the farmers. There is a vibrant foodie culture and farm to table scene emerging, and the Flint farmers market is a regional attraction.
I was honored to work with The Blight Authority in Pontiac, and serve on the Board of Advisors today. Bill Pulte who envisioned this organization saw the mission as a critical first step in urban renewal. Identify the blight, prioritize the removal and then organize the funds and groups to demo and return the land to DIRT.
Our experiences with the upcycle value of vacant, ready to be developed DIRT is part of our company culture. If you can't see what's the highest and best for a property, don't rush to 'develop it', make space for it to speak back to you on what it wants to be...
So much of our development culture is 'build, build, build'. Because after all, developers develop, builders, build and if you're a hammer, the world looks like a nail.