Ground Work

Ground Work

An innovative approach to address vacant land

Vacant land in Cleveland is, to some, a symbol of abandonment and economic hardship.

Although a vacant lot may be less of a concern than the dangerous abandoned property it replaced, it still can pose a significant burden to the community. With over 3,700 acres of vacant land spread throughout Cleveland – an area more than twice the size of Cleveland-Hopkins Airport – the unsightly dumping or other illegal activities that can occur, and the negative impact that these lots can have on nearby property values, it is no wonder that this problem is viewed as such. Western Reserve Land Conservancy has long been involved in efforts to remediate blight and revitalize Cleveland neighborhoods hard hit by the housing and economic crises of 2008. Over the past decade, this has involved property inventories, demolition of abandoned structures, and planting trees.

However, there is a tremendous need to remediate and revitalize the thousands of vacant lots that demolition of these structures has left behind. To meet this need, Western Reserve Land Conservancy has developed Ground Work: a collaborative land preparation platform that honors the history of the urban landscape by restoring the land and laying the foundation for a vibrant future. Ground Work transforms vacant land into personal, practical, and beautiful green spaces.

tree street


We listen to your stories to make the parcel support your needs and amplify the personality of your neighborhood.

3468 E 147th St 2014 Mount Pleasant Loop- First Passive Park (MPNOW) Trail and Wooden Gazebo (2)


We look closely at the site conditions and work closely with maintenance crews to ensure the space is perfect.

Project UP Community Planting Day - Boise Paper and
Avery Dennison partnering with the Arbor
Day Foundation to revitalize the Breakthrough
School grounds and plant 30 trees and shrubs - Photo © Bob Perkoski,


The sustainable designs incorporate trees, flowers and more. The sites look great all year, for years to come.

A Low Cost Way to Beautify Neighborhoods

The City of Cleveland spends millions of dollars each year mowing roughly 16,000 city-owned vacant lots. This model provides little ecological benefit to the landscape while straining the City’s resource and maintenance capacity, often resulting in stagnant and uninviting landscapes. With Ground Work, we propose an alternative to this traditional model of vacant land care. In collaboration with residents and community members, as well as the City of Cleveland, the Ground Work platform seeks to develop low-maintenance, clean, green, and safe urban greenspaces that both respect the history of the neighborhood and its residents, and celebrate a vibrant and resilient future.

Ground Work takes a parcel-by-parcel approach to addressing city-wide vacant land. Sites are identified and vetted through conversations with residents, community leaders, municipal departments and partner organizations. Design elements at each site are tailored based on the site assessment, and may include soil remediation, restorative plantings, and installations such as fences, benches and signage. Community input into site design is solicited through on- and off-site meetings and neighborhood outreach. Rigorous documentation of the process makes each Ground Work project an opportunity to discover and develop best practices that will inform future work.

This year, we spoke with 42 Cleveland residents about vacant land near their homes. Here's what we learned.

Giant Sugar Maple

Land is, and always has been, an asset

Arbor Day

Trees are the answer

Trees and other plants produce the oxygen we need to live. They can sequester pollutants through photosynthesis, evapo-transpiration, and surface-area interception, making the air we breathe cleaner and healthier. They cool the air in summer, and retain heat around buildings in winter.

kids play course logs

Neighborhoods benefit

 Access to nature relieves stress and encourages a healthier lifestyle. Clean and green neighborhoods attract more buyers and reduce crime. Property values increase as neighborhoods improve. Children have more access to open green space and a blighted property is transformed into an urban oasis.

IHoffman tree maintenance_js

Environmental health

Healthy soils absorb stormwater, reducing the severity of flooding during storms, and they too can capture harmful pollutants and toxic metals, making them less bioavailable and therefore less potentially harmful. Plant biomass and soil act as carbon sinks, sequestering carbon dioxide.

This land holds our stories

Ground Work celebrates our urban land and all that it can do for us, restoring the land to a healthier state, while improving neighborhoods and the lives of residents. This land holds our stories. It has seen the best and the worst of Cleveland’s unique history. It has seen generations come and generations go. Before there were homes to be torn down, there were homes that hadn’t yet been built; where development ebbs and flows, the land remains.

Ready to find out more?

Call us at 216-250-2638 or email us using the button to tell us about your neighborhood and how Ground Work can help!