Get Inspired

Your design is the roadmap to your vacant lot project. Before you start implementing your project idea, you’ll need to have the end goal in mind. The process of creating a design can be a fun way to get neighbors involved. Give neighbors, young and old, the opportunity to sketch ideas for your lot, and you’ll end up with many possibilities. It’s a great way to create excitement about something coming in your community and inviting people to participate in the process of change.

Design is also a great way to advocate for your idea in the later phases of the process – to show potential funders the vision, to explain to future volunteers exactly what they would be contributing to, and to resource providers so they can help direct you to the most relevant materials and support.

When thinking about design ideas, keep in mind the following things:

  • The goals of the project: What are you hoping to accomplish? Whether you are looking to create a friendly gathering space, or a passive quiet space, simply beautify a corner, announce the entrance into your community or provide a safe place for children, each idea require different levels of commitment, liability, funding and maintenance, all which need to be considered.
  • Capacity for the work: How much time can you commit to this project? How many people will be helping? Do you have a plan for sustaining the project long-term?
  • The suitability of a vacant lot for your project:
    If you already have a vacant lot in mind, you may need to tailor the design to fit the qualities of the lot. For example, if your goal is to grow food, then you may be limited by size, budget, hours of available sunlight and quality of soil. If you have a design in mind, but need to find a vacant lot to fit your design, take a walk around your neighborhood, talk to your neighbors, and check out our map of vacant lots.
  • The resources available for the project:
    What have similar projects cost, and does your budget match the project you want to do? You may need to think about future phases or doing some additional fundraising.

Design Concept Ideas to use as a Starting Point

Below are a list of design concepts that you can use as a starting point. Remember to consider what you’ve learned during your lot research, and use your creativity! For even more ideas, visit our Pinterest page or the Detroit Future City resource.

Clean & Green

cost: low     workload: low     time: low

Flower Garden

cost: low     workload: low     time: moderate

Food Garden

cost: high    workload: high     time: high


cost: moderate    workload: moderate    time: moderate

Green + Screen

cost: high     workload: moderate     time: high

Wooded Lot

cost: moderate    workload: moderate     time: moderate


cost: moderate     workload: high     time: moderate


cost: high     workload: high    time: moderate

Pop Up Events

cost: low     workload: low     time: low

Public Art

cost: high    workload: moderate     time: low

Rain Garden

cost: high     workload: high     time: moderate


cost: moderate     workload: moderate     time: moderate